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Overview of Elder Abuse

Date Published
November 5, 2007

In the United States, the issue of elder mistreatment is garnering the attention of the law enforcement, medical, and research communities as more people are living longer than ever before. This trend is expected to increase, as the U.S. Census Bureau projects that more than 62 million Americans will be age 65 or older in 2025, an increase of 78 percent from 2001, and more than 7.4 million will be age 85 or older, an increase of nearly 68 percent from 2001.[1] This aging population will require more care and protection than is currently available or possible.

The National Research Council defines elder abuse and mistreatment as "(a) intentional actions that cause harm or create a serious risk of harm to a vulnerable elder by a caregiver or other person who stands in a trust relationship to the elder, or (b) failure by a caregiver to satisfy the elder's basic needs or to protect the elder from harm."[2] This definition includes financial exploitation of the elderly as well as physical abuse or neglect.

NIJ's primary objectives regarding elder mistreatment are to identify emerging promising practices and evaluate their effectiveness in improving prevention, detection, and intervention efforts.

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Elder Abuse: Research Agenda

To assist the field in responding to current and emerging needs of older Americans, NIJ has established a research program focusing on elder mistreatment. Key research priorities are:

  • Identifying and evaluating forensic markers of physical and sexual abuse and neglect among the elderly.
  • Evaluating programs designed to detect, prevent, investigate, prosecute, or otherwise redress elder mistreatment.
  • Examining risk and protective factors associated with elder mistreatment in both institutional and community settings.
  • Exploring the nature, incidence, and prevalence of elder mistreatment and establishing uniform definitions and measures.
  • Evaluating a coordinated community response to elder mistreatment.

Date Published: November 5, 2007