What Is Elder Abuse?

Elder Abuse is defined by the World Health Organization as “a single, or repeated act, or lack of appropriate action, occurring within any relationship where there is an expectation of trust which causes harm or distress to an older person.”

Elder abuse often occurs when there is an imbalance of control. The abuser either limits or takes control over the rights and freedoms of the senior. The abuse/violence is used to intimidate, humiliate, coerce, frighten or simply to make the senior feel powerless.

Elder abuse or elder mistreatment is a multidimensional phenomenon, that encompasses a broad range of behaviors, events, and circumstances. Unlike random acts of violence or exploitation, elder abuse does not always occur as an isolated incident; rather it is recurrent in up to 80% of cases.

A lonely senior woman looking outside with her arm resting against the window

How many Ontarians are facing elder abuse?

Elder abuse is a serious and growing problem, although the magnitude and extent of the elder abuse cases occurring in Canada is not well known, due to limited data collected and unreported cases. North American studies indicate that between 2 and 10 per cent of older adults will experience some type of elder abuse or neglect each year.

There are currently 2 million seniors aged 65 and over, or 14.6 per cent of the population who reside in Ontario. Based on studies that indicate two to ten percent of seniors are abused, there are between 40,000 and 200,000 seniors living in Ontario who have experienced or are experiencing elder abuse.

Ontario is also facing a significant demographic shift, according to Ministry of Finance Census Data. The number of seniors over 65 is projected to more than double in Canada or in Ontario to almost 4.2 million, or 24.0 per cent, by 2036. Given the significant growth increase of seniors, it is imperative that we take action to prevent and assist seniors who are at risk and are experiencing abuse, otherwise between 84,000 and 420,000 seniors could be affected in the future!

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