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.
Who are we talking about?
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.
Who hurts older people?
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.
Any abuse of an older person should be reported. Victoria Police and State Trustees talk about elder abuse
How police will help
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.
If you are deaf, have a hearing impairment or have difficulty being understood verbally, the National Relay Service can assist with an emergency call
You can click the orange button at the top or bottom of each page to go to the National Relay Service home page or see their emergency call page
More information and support on elder abuse
- Seniors Rights Victoria 1300 368 821 Mon-Fri, 10am-5pm
- Eastern Community Legal Service, Elder Abuse Project
- See Eastern Community Legal Service's film Behind the Curtain
- Ethnic Communities Council Behind these Walls film in a range of languages other than English (LOTE)
- Domestic Violence Resource Centre Victoria (DVRVC) Information on Elder Abuse
For more information see
- Magistrates Court see their family violence pages and films
- Victims of Crime Help Line (7 days, 8am-11pm) 1800 819 817
- Victoria Legal Aid (Mon-Fri 9am-5pm) free telephone advice in a range of languages 1300 792 387
- Safe Steps Family Violence Response Centre (24 hours) for women and children 1800 015 188 or 9322 3555
- Men's Referral Service (Mon-Fri 8am-9pm) support and referral for men 1300 766 491
- Sexual Assault Crisis Line (24 hours) 1800 806 292
- Child Protection Service DHHS (24 hours) 131 278
- Housing (24 hrs) state-wide referral for emergency housing 1800 825 955
Reviewed 19 March 2019