Elder abuse is any act by a family member, or within a relationship of trust, which results in harm to an older person.
It can be emotional, psychological, financial, physical or sexual abuse, and/or neglect.
Elder abuse is often a form of family violence, because the person harming the older person is a family member, or is trusted like a family member by the older person.
Too often elder abuse is hidden, because victims are reluctant to disclose the abuse they suffer due to being dependent on, ashamed of, or trying to protect their abusive family member or partner.
An older person is often defined as being:
- over 65 years
- over 55 years for Aboriginal people in recognition of the gap in life expectancy within Aboriginal communities
Most victims of elder abuse are women although the proportion of male victims is higher than other age groups.
The person abusing the older person can be:
- an intimate partner, (who may have a history of using family violence)
- an adult child
- an adult grandchild
- other family member, or
- a carer who is like a family member
Sadly adult children and grandchildren are the biggest group of perpetrators of elder abuse.
Examples of elder abuse
Some examples of elder abuse are:
- financial abuse, abusing power of attorney, accessing bank accounts or coercively taking the older person's money, assets or possessions
- ageist abuse, e.g. stopping elder from making their own decisions, blaming the older person for care needs
- hitting, rough handling or neglectful care
- withholding medications, food, glasses, hearing or mobility aids
- social isolation
- unwanted sexual touching, including rape
Some abuse of older people is not family violence, for example when abuse or violence is perpetrated by a stranger.
Victoria Police will act to protect victims of elder abuse, this may be by:
- seeking a Family Violence Safety Notice or Family Violence Intervention Order
- investigating any criminal acts
- assisting with referrals to community services
Victoria Police is here to help.
If you are unsure what to do, or are reluctant to contact police about a loved one, there are non-government community services which can provide more information, advice and support at the bottom of this page.
In an emergency call Triple Zero (000)
If English is not your first language, call Triple Zero (000) tell them your language, they will organise an interpreter. Stay on the line.
A helpful guide for service provider’s who deal with welfare checks and suspected abuse.
- 1300 368 821 Mon-Fri, 10am-5pm
- See Eastern Community Legal Service's film
- Ethnic Communities Council film in a range of languages other than English (LOTE)
- see their family violence pages and films
Reviewed 04 April 2019