WHO/SEARO/Chadin-Tephaval
                                ? Credits

                                Elder abuse

                                  Overview

                                  Elder abuse is an intentional act, or failure to act, by a caregiver or another person in a relationship involving an expectation of trust that causes harm to an adult 60 years and older. Around 1 in 6 people 60 years and older experienced some form of abuse in community settings during the past year. Rates in institutional settings, such as nursing homes and long-term care facilities, are higher still, with 2 in 3 staff reporting that they have committed abuse in the past year. Even if rates remain constant, the absolute number of older people experiencing abuse is predicted to increase as the global population of older people increases. Elder abuse can lead to serious physical injuries and long-term psychological consequences, increased risk of nursing home placement, use of emergency services, hospitalization and premature death.

                                  Promising strategies to prevent and respond to elder abuse include caregiver interventions, which provide services to relieve the burden of caregiving; money management programmes for older adults vulnerable to financial exploitation; helplines and emergency shelters; and multi-disciplinary teams, as the responses required often cut across many systems, including, for instance, criminal justice, health care, mental health care, adults protective services and long-term care.

                                  Prevention

                                  Many strategies have been implemented to prevent elder abuse, take action against it and mitigate its consequences. Interventions that have been implemented – mainly in high-income countries – to prevent abuse include:

                                  • public and professional awareness campaigns
                                  • screening (of potential victims and abusers)
                                  • school-based intergenerational programmes
                                  • caregiver support interventions (including stress management and respite care)
                                  • residential care policies to define and improve standards of care
                                  • caregiver training on dementia
                                  • money management programmes
                                  • multidisciplinary teams.

                                  Efforts to respond to and prevent further abuse include interventions such as: 

                                  • mandatory reporting of abuse to authorities
                                  • self-help groups
                                  • safe-houses and emergency shelters
                                  • psychological programmes for abusers
                                  • helplines to provide information and referrals
                                  • caregiver support interventions.
                                  WHO response

                                  In May 2016, the World Health Assembly adopted a Global strategy and action plan on ageing and health, which provides guidance for coordinated action in countries on elder abuse that aligns with the Sustainable Development Goals. In December 2020, the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed 2021–2030 the UN Decade of Healthy Ageing, which builds on the Global strategy and calls for ten years of global collaboration across governments, civil society, international agencies, professionals, academia, the media, and the private sector to improve the lives of older people, their families and the communities in which they live.

                                  In line with the Global strategy and the Decade, WHO and partners collaborate to prevent elder abuse through initiatives that help to identify, quantify and respond to the problem, including:

                                  • building evidence on the scope and types of elder abuse in different settings (to understand the magnitude and nature of the problem at the global level), particularly in low- and middle-income countries from South-East Asia, the Middle East and Africa, for which there is little data;
                                  • collecting evidence and developing guidance for Member States and all relevant sectors to prevent elder abuse and strengthen their responses to it;
                                  • disseminating information to countries and supporting national efforts to prevent elder abuse; and
                                  • collaborating with international agencies and organizations to deter the problem globally.

                                  1 in 6 people

                                  60 years or older

                                  experienced some form of abuse in the last year

                                  2 billion people

                                  will be 60 years and older in 2050, up from 900 million in 2015

                                  Only 4%

                                  of elder abuse is reported

                                  Publications

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