Unfortunately, the issue of bullying is not only a problem for younger generations, but for older adults as well. On June 15th, individuals banded together to raise awareness around elder abuse in observance of World Elder Abuse Day. Elder abuse is a serious issue that affects far too many seniors. Given the prevalence of elder abuse, promoting awareness and being knowledgeable about the risk factors are important for individuals of all ages to know.
There are six major categories of elder abuse as defined by the Administration on Aging’s National Center on Elder Abuse: physical abuse, emotional abuse, sexual abuse, financial exploitation, neglect and abandonment. Beyond the cuts, bruises and other bodily injuries indicative of physical abuse, other warning signs of abuse include withdrawal from usual activities, depression, unattended medical needs, poor hygiene, unexplained weight loss, a change in financial attitude and strained relationships.
Just how prevalent is elder abuse? According to the United Nations, four to six percent of elders worldwide have experienced some form of mistreatment. However, a 2003 report by the National Research Council estimated that only one in 14 cases of elder abuse is ever reported to authorities. One reason for this discrepancy is that the senior being abused often knows and cares about the abuser and doesn’t want to get him or her into trouble. Sadly, the majority of elder abusers are spouses and 90 percent of abusers are family members.
Why do seniors become targets for abuse? They’re often viewed as vulnerable, not only physically, but also financially; many financial scams involve conning the elderly with “free” medical equipment in exchange for their Social Security numbers. Research shows that elderly women are more likely to be abused than elderly men and that the prevalence of abuse increases with age.