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[edit] Group #17

  • 1. Kayla Sooley
  • 2. Adam Jolin
  • 3. Tom Jakobs

Elder Abuse


According to the medical dictionary elder abuse can be defined as "the physical, sexual, or emotional abuse of an elderly person, usually one who is disabled or frail", but financial abuse is also common. This page will discuss the following three risk factors of elder abuse: gender, culture, and age or the health of the individual.Gender biases, cultural perceptions of elder abuse, and losing independence through age and health implications put elders in a position of greater risk of abuse. These factors also influence the risk of becoming a perpetrator of elder abuse.

[edit] Gender and Elder Abuse

The majority of people assume that cases of elder abuse involve a young male perpetrator and an older female victim. However, in reality, anyone is capable of abuse, and both men and women are equally likely to be victims of elder abuse.[1]. These gender biases have not been examined very often but are important in understanding elder abuse and implementing policies to stop elder abuse.

[edit] Victim and Gender

Men and women are both equally likely to become victims of elder abuse but differ in terms of the type of abuse they usually experience.. Men are more likely to experiencefinancial abuse and are more likely to be abandoned and neglected,[2][3] while women are more likely to be sexually abused[4]. Research suggests that older men are frequently financially abused because they usually have more money and resources than older women[5] [3]. Other research suggests that men are more susceptible to financial abuse because they tend to feel lonelier and are drawn to any attachment that comes along. This causes older males to become more trusting and allows a greater vulnerability for others to get a hold of their finances[5]. Men also tend to be at greater risk for financial abuse because men tend to live with their spouse and children, which offers a greater opportunity for the abuse to occur compared to women who usually are widowed and live alone[6][4] Women usually need more help with daily activities and therefore become more dependent on caretakers. Other family members usually take elderly females in and are usually the perpetrators of the abuse. The greater dependency of older women, compared to older men, cause older women to become more vulnerable to physical and sexual abuse because they are unable to fight back.[7] Sexual abuse of older women is usually committed in nursing homes or by non-relatives[8].

[edit] Mickey Rooney Speaks Out Against Elder Abuse

The following video depicts Mickey Rooney speaking out on elder abuse after he was financially abused and encouraging all elders, especially males, to speak out about the mistreatment they experience.

[edit] Reports of Elder Abuse

It is less common to hear about an elderly male being abused than an elderly female. This occurs for two reasons:

  • 1) gender stereotypes and biases that are built into our society cause people to perceive male abuse as less serious than female abuse
  • 2) men generally do not see the doctor as often as females which makes it harder for general practitioners to detect physical or emotional abuse.

A common gender bias in most Western societies today is that men are supposed to be the dominant providers, while women are seen as submissive. When a male does report that he is being abused many professionals do not take the claim seriously especially when the perpetrator is a female as elder abuse is commonly seen as a woman’s problem[2]. Underlying gender stereotypes in society hold that men should be able to take care of themselves. Males also hold these biases and stereotypes towards themselves and are usually too afraid to speak out about the abuse that is happening to them because they believe people will see them as weak and feminine. Males and females also talk about abuse differently as a result of gender stereotypes. Since women often see their doctor more frequently,[2] they tend to be more comfortable with their doctor and better able to discuss any abuse that may be going on[9]. Elder abuse has a greater chance of being detected in women by the general practitioner since the doctor will see the patient more frequently than a male.[2]

[edit] Perpetrator and Gender

Many people assume that males are more likely to commit physical elder abuse than females. Females are generally expected to be nurturing and the caretakers of an aging relative or to be working in a home as a caretaker while men are seen as aggressive[10]. Recent research shows that males and females both commit aggressive acts equally but the aggressive acts differ between male and female perpetrators[1].Men usually commit more serious harm when engaging in physical aggressive acts than females, who usually inflict little physical damage.General practitioners and social workers tend to believe that perpetrators are usually male as opposed to female, and are therefore less likely to detect any abuse that may be occurring when the stereotypical gender roles are violated, which leads to an under recognition of female perpetrators[1].

[edit] Cultural Impact on Elder Abuse

The following section will cover where race and culture fit into the problem of elder abuse. Topics addressed will include things like what minority groups or races may be reporting abuse, cross-cultural perceptions of elder abuse including how races rank the negativity of certain types of abuse over others, and what various cultures think is most beneficial in dealing with elder abuse.

[edit] Who is Reporting Abuse?

Race may play a vital role in who is likely to report elder abuse. For instance, when comparing the ratio of minority groups to the general population, it is shown that there is a substantial amount of abuse reports coming from minority groups such as African Americans and Hispanics[11]. This suggests that the percentage of these minorities reporting abuse is higher than their corresponding population size[11] Therefore race may play an important role in the likelihood of elders reporting abuse.

[edit] Who is Abused?

Second, the race of the victim may also help indicate who the elder is most likely abused by [12][13]. Research shows that African American females, when compared to other races, are more likely to be abused by a family member instead of a spouse or ex spouse[12][13][14]. The difference in perpetrators between African American and other races may be due to the lower percentage of African American females with current spouses[12]. Furthermore, African Americans also seemed to report less cases of sexual abuse than Caucasian and Hispanic populations[12]. A possible explanation may be that since most African American victims are abused by family while other races often have perpetrators outside of the home[12][13][14], this may explain the difference in sexual abuse victims across race. Despite these differences, individuals generally report similar levels of emotional abuse cross culturally compared to other forms[12] which may indicate a universal norm when considering elder emotional mistreatment. Overall, the race of the victim may help indicate who the elder is most likely abused by[12][13].

[edit] Perceptions:

Race can also play a role in the perception of abuse. For instance, there are differences in the way some races view elder mistreatment[11][13][15][14].In some cultures, individuals may view specific types of abuse as normal.We can see this in the literature showing that in some Latina minorities, females find it acceptable for a spouse to physically abuse them[13]. When comparing Caucasian and Korean individuals on their views of abuse, researchers found that when given hypothetical abuse scenarios, Korean youth viewed elder mistreatment as less abusive than other western cultures, and that they rated elder abuse as less severe compared to other types of abuse[13][15]. Also, Caucasian and Korean college students both agreed that the most common form of elder abuse amongst the two cultures was psychological abuse[13]. Despite differences across cultures, most cultures studied (Japanese, Puerto Ricans, Caucasian and African Americans) viewed psychological abuse or neglect as the worst type of mistreatment when compared to other forms[14]. Lastly, most groups ranked physical abuse as less negative than other forms[14]. It is interesting to see these significant differences and similarities cross-culturally in regards to elder abuse.

[edit] Seeking Help/Support:

A victim’s cultural background may also influence their likelihood of seeking help when they encounter abuse[11][13][15]. What may cause these individual differences in reporting elder abuse? Past research suggests that since Korean cultures value the importance of family strength, harmony and interdependence, abuse victims may be reluctant to reveal family shame in order to uphold cultural norms[13][15].

This image comes from a news article that documented the abuse of a older a Chinese woman by her daughter. You can view the article here [1]
This image comes from a news article that documented the abuse of a older a Chinese woman by her daughter. You can view the article here [1]

In comparison, caucasian Americans report more abuse[12]. This may be due to Caucasian societies favoring individualistic norms that reflect self identity and independence. Additionally, research also suggests that the need for emotional support differs across races[12][14]. For instance, since African Americans usually have closer family relationships when compared to other race, abuse victims would need less additional support since they already acquire it within the family[12]. In other words, since they have high emotional support in families, they would show lower levels of stress associated with abuse. There are similarities across African Americans, Japanese, and Caucasians that victims generally seek informal help through family, friends, and/or church ministries instead of formal ones such as the police and social service workers[15][14].

[edit] Age and Health

The idea and knowledge of declining health with increasing age is an all to known commonality that all will experience in their lives as they age but the implications that both increasing age and declining health can have on safety in the later years in life is a less known topic. Increasing age and health implications, both cognitive and physical, have an effect on the safety of elders in their later years when they no longer have the ability to be independent and these two factors put them at a greater risk of abuse from care givers in both the family home setting and within care facilities.

[edit] Age and Health Related Risk Factorsof the Elderly

It is a well known fact that with age comes a greater prevalence of diseases, disabilities and over all drastic declines in health, both cognitively and physically[16]. Age of the victim have large implications on the frequency and severity of elder abuse, older adults report a higher frequency of abuse than younger respondents to psychological abuse and neglect as well as physical abuse[17]. As people age they begin to experience the effects of agism; the idea that older people are stigmatized and socially excluded on the basis of their age and the misconception that they are becoming a burden to society and their individual families, with a lack of ability to care for themselves[18]. Which can partially account for the increasing rates of mistreatment as age advances leaving individuals not only more reliant on their caregivers but also less able to defend them selves.[19][20]. The role of health factors such as physical disability and disease also has large implications on rate of elder abuse, this can be attributed to the idea that the worse the impairment of an individual the more they will be relying on caregivers for help to simple day to day activities[18] [20]. This leaves more of an opportunity for abuse because of the amount of time being spent alone with the caregivers and the demands that are being placed on the caregiver[18], a recent study found that elders reporting mistreatment had nearly twice the prevalence of high health impairments[20]. As age increases so does the commonality of poor health which work together with age to put elderly people at a greater risk and more frequent mistreatment by their caregivers.

[edit] Age and Health Related Risk Factors of the Caregiver

The age and health related factors of the caregiver can also play a role in the prevalence of elder abuse in both psychological and physical sense. The implications of age of the caregiver are mainly related to the different beliefs and ideals held by younger adults compared of elders[16], the idea of agism[18] which implies that younger adults are more able and therefore more valuable than elders[16] giving opportunity for greater mistreatment of elders because they are being dehumanized and viewed as less than that of everyone else within society. Younger adults reported to believe elder abuse was only on a more physical level not taking into account the psychological mistreatment that can be inflicted on elders by their caregivers. Where as older adults report more issues and concerns related to psychological mistreatment and belittlement of elders, older adults display a lower tolerance for any sort of abuse or neglect related to elders[17]. Health implications related to the caregiver do not seem to have an effect on the rates of elder abuse other than addiction problems of the caregiver mainly within the home and family care settings, alcohol addiction and dependence of the caregiver has been found to play a significant role in physical elder abuse and mistreatment[19].

[edit] Prevention and Awareness

Gender is an important factor to consider when discussing elder abuse or creating and implementing policies regarding elder abuse. Police, enforcement agencies and social workers should be made aware that female perpetrators of elder abuse are not an unusual occurrence but are fairly typical, especially in the family home[10]. This new awareness may allow a greater detection of females who commit elder abuse, especially the abuse towards males. A standardized policy should be implemented that allows for the same consequences for all cases of elder abuse since social workers are more likely to implement serious formal actions if the perpetrator is male and the victim is female. The attitude that males should take care of themselves causes many problems and usually leads to little actions taken by authority figures. The failure to take action by many social workers causes males to continue to be abused and leads to males’ reluctance to disclose any future abuse or mistreatment that may occur[1] [3].

There should be a greater awareness that elder abuse does not always happen to females and that males are also likely targets of abuse, especially financial. Elders themselves should also be educated about gender biases they may hold that may lead to a failure to disclose information about abuse and may cause males to believe they are immune from abuse. Both male and female elders should also be made aware of the types of abuse that may occur, who may perpetrate these crimes and what actions and services may be out there for them. These preventive measures and simple education about gendered expectations should be included in training for doctors and social workers which may increase the ability for early detection of elder abuse of both males and females and allow for more serious formal actions to be implicated against the perpetrators of elder abuse.

Furthermore, it is often really hard to identify what culture defines elder abuse the best[13][15][14]. There are common beliefs when identifying certain types of abuse such as physical/violent maltreatment but other forms may be harder to agree on universally[13][15][14]. It is an interesting viewpoint that if a particular individual does not feel like they are a part of their own culture or of the larger population that they live amongst, these victims would be more likely to report abuse[14]. To explain, consider the idea of bringing family shame as a negative quality in Asian cultures. An individual Asian who does not feel a sense of belonging in this culture will feel no need to conform to such norms. Overall, it can be concluded that there are several similarities and differences across race and culture in regards to elder abuse.

There may be no way to stop the advancement of age and the declines in health that come with this advancement or with the gender biases and cultural implications of society, but it is possible to stop the mistreatment of elders within the community, the home, and the health care system. Currently there are many systems already in place to protect elders from abuse and to help those who have been abused; many hospitals are beginning to examine those patients who identify as those suffering from abuse more closely[19] as well as organizations such as ONPEA, The Ontario Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse, which can provide information to families regarding warning signs and steps to take in order to deal with the abuse of an elder.

[edit] Government of Canada Awareness Video

A video release by the Canadian Government working with Seniors Canada calling for awareness of abuse issues. It is important for both elders and their loved ones to be aware of elder abuse and the risk factors for being abused or becoming an abuser. Hopefully, by becoming more aware of this issue, the elder abuse rates will decline.

[edit] Notes and References

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Bell, B., Oyebode, J., & Oliver,C. (2004). The physical abuse of older adults: The impact of the carer’s gender, level of abuse indicators, and training on decision making. Journal of Elder Abuse & Neglect, 16(3), 19-44.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 Yaffe, M.J., Weiss, D., Wolfson, C., & Lithwick, M. (2008). Detection and prevalence of abuse of older males: perspectives from family practice. Journal of Elder Abuse & Neglect, 19(1-2), 47-60.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Pritchard, J. (2002, March.27). Male victims of elder abuse: Their experiences and needs. Retrieved from:
  4. 4.0 4.1 Safarik, M.E., Jarvis, J.P., & Nussbaum, K.E. (2002). Sexual homicide of elderly females: Linking offender characteristics to victim and crime scene attributes. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 17(5), 500-525.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Canadian network for the prevention of elder abuse. (2009, April.24). Abuse of older men. Retrieved from
  6. Dimah, A., & Dimah, K.P. (2002). Gender differences among abused older African Americans and African American abusers in an elder abuse provider agency. Journal of Black Studies, 32(5), 557-573.
  7. name="Amstadter"here
  8. name="Safarik"
  9. Dong, X., & Simon, M.A. (2010). Gender variations in the levels of social support and risk of elder mistreatment in a Chinese community population. Journal of Applied Gerontology, 29(6), 720-739.
  10. 10.0 10.1 Amstadter, A.B., Cisler, J.M., McCauley, J.L., Hernandez, M.A., Muzzy, W., & Acierno, R. (2011). Do incident and perpetrator characteristics of elder mistreatment differ by gender of the victim? Results from the national elder mistreatment study. Journal of Elder Abuse & Neglect, 23(1), 43-57.
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 11.3 Wolf, R., & Li, D. (1999). Factors Affecting the Rate of Elder Abuse Reporting to a State Protective Services Program. The Gerontologist, 39, 222-228.
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 12.3 12.4 12.5 12.6 12.7 12.8 12.9 Grossman, F., & Lundy, M. (2003). Use of Domestic Violence Services Across Race and Ethnicity by Woman Aged 55 and Older. Violence Against Women, 9, 1442-1452.
  13. 13.00 13.01 13.02 13.03 13.04 13.05 13.06 13.07 13.08 13.09 13.10 13.11 Mills, R., Morrison, K., & You, H. (2000). Young Adult Attachment Styles and perceptions of Elder Abuse: A Cross-Cultural Study. Journal of Cross-Cultural Gerontology, 15, 163-184.
  14. 14.0 14.1 14.2 14.3 14.4 14.5 14.6 14.7 14.8 14.9 Anetzberger, G., Korbin, J., & Tomita, S. (1996). Defining Elder Mistreatment in Four Ethnic Groups Across Two Generations. Journal of Cross-Cultural Gerontology, 11, 187-212.
  15. 15.0 15.1 15.2 15.3 15.4 15.5 15.6 Moon, A., & Williams, O. (1993). Perceptions of Elder Abuse and Help-Seeking Patterns Among African-America, Caucasian American, and Korean-American Elderly Women. The Gerontologist, 33, 386-395.
  16. 16.0 16.1 16.2 Walsh, C. A., Olson, J. L., Ploeg, J., Lohfeld, L., & MacMillan, H. L., (2010). Elder abuse and oppression: voices of marginalized elders. Journal of Elder Abuse & Neglect, 23 (1), 17-42.
  17. 17.0 17.1 Patterson, M., Mally-Morrison, K., (2006). A Cognitive-ecological approach to elder abuse in five cultures: human rights and education. Educational Geronotolgy, 32, 73-82.
  18. 18.0 18.1 18.2 18.3 Post, L., Page, C., Conner, T., Prokhorov, Y. F., & Biroscak, B. J., (2010). Elder abuse in long-term care: types, patterns, and risk factors. Research on Aging, 32(3), 323-348.
  19. 19.0 19.1 19.2 Friedman, L. S., Avila, S., Tanouye, K., & Joseph, K., (2011). A case-control study of severe physical abuse of older adults. Journal of American Geriatrics Society, 59, 417-422.
  20. 20.0 20.1 20.2 Lachs, M. S., Williams, C., O’Brien, S., Hurst, L., & Horwitz, R., (1997). Risk factors for reported elder abuse and neglect: a nine-year observational study. The Genontological Society of America, 37(4), 469-474.

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