Epidemic of elder abuse across the UK

September 14, 2017

Almost 10% of older people say that they are being abused, according to a nationwide poll which has called the situation 'an epidemic of elder abuse across the UK'.

The research released by Action on Elder Abuse says that older people across the UK are being abused on a significant scale. With almost 10% of older people (aged 65+) saying that they have experienced abuse of some kind, it is possible that one million older people in the UK have experienced abuse.

The research supplements existing academic research 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 and the 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.

Action on Elder Abuse's 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.

  • 10.6% said they know an older person that had experienced financial abuse.
  • 8.6% know an older person who has experienced neglect.
  • 8.8% know of an older person who has experienced psychological abuse.
  • 7.9% know an older person who has experienced physical abuse.
  • 4.7% know an older person who has been sexually abused.

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. This means 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.

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