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Elder Abuse

There are supports available if you or someone you know may be suffering from elder abuse

Elder Abuse phone line

What is Elder Abuse?

Elder abuse is a single or repeated act or failure to act, including threats, that results in harm or distress to an older person. This occurs where there is an expectation of trust and/or where there is a power imbalance between the party responsible and the older person.

Physical abuse, financial abuse, sexual abuse psychological or emotional abuse, and neglect are the commonly recognised types of elder abuse, which is a type of domestic and family violence.

Examples of elder abuse

Failing to provide the older person with basic needs such as food and medical/health care (neglect)

Unwanted sexual contact

Belittling, treating the older person like a child, bullying, threatening, and verbal abuse

Withholding contact with family and friends, isolating an older person

Causing physical pain by pushing, hitting, and being rough with an older person

Taking over an older person's home and finances by force and refusing to help pay for expenses

Agreeing to take care of an older person, then refusing the care

Destroying, vandalising, or stealing an older person’s belongings

The issue

By 2050, it is projected that more than a fifth of the population will be age 65+, with around 5% being aged 85+. This could see the number of elder abuse cases increase, unless concerted efforts are taken to educate and protect older people from harm.

Based on the available evidence, most cases of elder abuse occur within families and across generations. Mothers are more often the subject of abuse by their sons, but abuse by daughters and towards fathers is also prevalent.

Addressing elder abuse is complex due to our federal system of government. Multiple layers of legislative and policy frameworks across health, ageing, and law exist at both federal and state levels.

Elder Abuse Facts

• Around 1 in 6 (598,000 or 15%) of older people in Australia had experienced elder abuse in the past year

• Slightly more women than men experience elder abuse

• Psychological abuse is the highest form of elder abuse - 471,300 out of 598,000 cases of reported elder abuse in 2020

• Perpetrators are more likely to be male than female

• Perpetrators are far more likely to be a child of the victim, followed by a friend, then partner/spouse

• 1 in 3 people who had experienced elder abuse had sought help from a third party (National Elder Abuse Prevalence Study 2021)

• More than 1 in 4 older people have experienced technology-facilitated abuse (Technology-facilitated abuse: Extent, nature, and responses in the Australian community 2022)

• 3% of older women and 2% of older men had experienced sexual harassment in the last 12 months (Australian Bureau of Statistics Personal Safety Survey 2023)

Case studies

Cheryl lives on her own but after a fall, her daughter Jane moves into her home to help care for her. However, Jane is out with friends most of the time, often not coming home for days and when she does, she invites her friends into Cheryl’s home where they consume large amounts of alcohol. One time Cheryl suffered an asthma attack and when she called out to Jane for help, she would not wake. Cheryl struggled to call 000 herself.

Peg’s grandson Shane has put a tracing app on her mobile phone. He has been tracking her every movement and will often send text messages telling her to leave a certain place, be home at a certain time, or not leave the house at all. Peg knows her mind isn’t like it used to be, but she is still very independent. Shane says he’s tracking her for her own safety. However, the constant messaging is upsetting Peg. She feels she is being treated like a child and that Shane is aware of her every move.

Home care worker Lilly assists Margaret who has multiple sclerosis. She feels intimidated by Margaret’s husband who loses his temper easily with both her and Margaret and often yells and swears. He tells her that he is resentful of his wife and her illness. One day she notices bruising on Margaret’s upper arms and her husband refuses to let Lilly talk to her alone.

William is in hospital with heart complications and approaching his room, nurse Anna hears his daughter say to him in a nasty tone of voice, “Stop being a fool and just give me access to your bank accounts. You’re going to die alone if you don’t start cooperating with me”. As Anna enters the room, the daughter leaves quickly, and William looks upset. Anna asks if everything is okay, and William nods his head “yes” but says nothing.

Get help

If you need immediate assistance in an emergency or life threatening situation, call triple zero (000).

If you have concerns about elder abuse, you can call the National Elder Abuse Phone line for free, confidential information and advice on 1800 353 374, or 1800 ELDERHelp. This is a national freecall number that redirects to relevant services.

Helpful links

Family Violence Law Help


Elder Abuse Action Australia

Attorney-General’s Department

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