EPIDEMIC OF ELDER ABUSE ACROSS THE UK

EPIDEMIC OF ELDER ABUSE ACROSS THE UK

Almost 10% of older people say that they are being abused in nationwide poll

  • 9.3% of older people say that they have experienced elder abuse
  • Possible that more than one million older people in the UK suffering
  • Psychological, physical, sexual and financial among the types of abuse

Older people across the UK are being abused on a significant scale, according to new research released by the charity Action on Elder Abuse.

The research showed that almost 10% of older people (aged 65+) say that they have experienced abuse of some kind, meaning it is possible that one million older people in the UK have experienced abuse.[1]

This research from Action on Elder Abuse supplements existing academic research (O’Keeffe et al, 2007 link) regarding the scale of elder abuse, which estimates that around 4% of the older population or 465,000 people are victims of some form of abuse each year.

In addition, a secondary analysis of this study, carried out by King’s College London andthe National Centre for Social Research (published in 2015) found that when the definition was broadened to include abuse perpetrated by neighbours and acquaintances (in addition to that by friends, family and carers), and when any single incident of psychological abuse or neglect was counted, the likely prevalence of elder abuse was 8.6% of the population, meaning 998,560 older people would be likely to be being abused annually.

Experience and perceptions of abuse by older people and under 65+s

Types of abuse experienced by over 65s[2]

Type of abuse Percentage experienced No. in population likely to be experiencing abuse
Psychological (e.g. threats, intimidation, mockery) 5% 580,000
Physical Abuse (e.g hitting, slapping, spitting) 2.8% 325,000
Sexual Abuse (e.g.rape, unwanted sexual touching) 1.7% 197,000
Financial Abuse (e.g.the misuse of power of attorney, theft, fraud) 1.4% 162,000
Neglect (e.g failure to meet basic needs such as food, drink or personal care) 0.4% 58,000

 

The survey also asked under 65s if they knew of any older friends and relatives who had experienced elder abuse and again, the findings suggested that the problem is widespread:

Perceptions of elder abuse by under 65s (16+)

Type of crime Percentage
Knows an older person that has experienced financial abuse 10.6%
Knows an older person who has experienced neglect 8.6%
Knows of an older person who has experienced psychological abuse 8.4%
Know an older person who has experienced physical abuse 7.9%
Know an older person who has been sexually abused 4.7%

 

Low prosecution levels for crimes against older people

Despite the likelihood that many older people are victims of targeted crime each year, an additional analysis by Action on Elder Abuse has shown that most of those who abuse older people are going unpunished, with just 0.7% (3,012) of cases resulting in a successful criminal conviction in 2015/16, meaning it is likely that 99% of those who commit crimes against older people are not punished.

For this reason, Action on Elder Abuse is campaigning for tougher penalties for those who abuse older people by making it an aggravating factor for sentencing.

A recent poll of 3,000 people carried out by the charity revealed there was popular support for this measure: Nearly 96% of respondents in the UK-wide survey backed calls for tougher penalties for those who commit crimes against older people and only 5% of those surveyed believed that offences against older people should not be reclassified as aggravated crimes.

Action on Elder Abuse’s Chief Executive, Gary FitzGerald, said:

“This poll suggests that the problem of elder abuse in the UK is a significant issue and supports the theory that, like many offences against vulnerable populations, these crimes are all too often going unreported and not making it into official crime statistics.

“It is particularly interesting that younger people seem to be observing more elder abuse than the older population themselves are experiencing. It is likely that this is linked to the fact that many older people who are being abused will not even realise that this is happening due to lack of capacity.

“What is clear is that the abuse of older people is a big problem in the UK and at the moment, there just isn’t enough of a deterrent. Those who commit crimes against older people are very unlikely to be prosecuted, and even if they are the sentences they receive are often appallingly flimsy.

“This is why we want crimes against older people to be prosecuted in the same way as hate crimes, in recognition both of the fact that older people are specifically targeted because of their vulnerability and they often suffer more in the aftermath of these crimes. Indeed, sometimes even relatively ‘minor’ crimes against older people can cause such upset that they trigger terminal decline.

“We can all agree that the abuse of older people has no place in a civilised society. It’s about time that our country’s laws reflected this.”

View Action on Elder Abuse’s petition on Change.org here

[1] Figure calculated using ONS population data

[2] Sample size of 1,000 over 65s

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