Preventing Elder Financial Exploitation

Preventing Elder Financial Exploitation

Elder abuse can be defined as “engaging in some kind of one-off or repetitive act, or failing to act appropriately in any trusting relationship that harms the older person or causes stress.” Elder abuse can take many forms, such as physical, psychological or emotional, sexual and financial abuse. It can also be the result of intentional and unintentional neglect.

In many parts of the world, elder abuse is not recognized as a significant problem and is not adequately addressed. Until recently, this serious social problem was hidden from the public and was considered mainly a private problem. Even today, elder abuse continues to be taboo and largely underestimated or ignored by societies around the world. However, there is growing evidence that elder abuse is an important public health and societal issue.

Key facts

  • Rates of elderly abuse living in residential homes may be higher than those of older people living in communities;
  • Older abuse is projected to increase due to rapidly aging populations in many countries;
  • The global population of people aged 60 and over will more than double, from 900 million in 2015 to about 2 billion in 2050.

Although there is little information on the extent of elder abuse, especially in developing countries, it is estimated that one in 10 older people are mistreated each month. It is possible that levels of abuse are underestimated, with only one in 24 cases of elder abuse being reported, in part because older people are often afraid to report cases of abuse to their relatives, friends or authorities. Therefore, prevalence rates of abuse are likely to be underestimated.

Reliable data are limited, but one study estimated the prevalence of the most common types of abuse in high- and middle-income countries:

  • unacceptable psychological treatment: 11.6%;
  • inadmissible financial exploitation: 6.8%;
  • neglect: 4.2%;
  • unacceptable physical treatment: 2.6%;
  • sexual abuse: 0.9%.

Older exploitation is expected to rise with rapidly aging populations in many countries where resource constraints cannot fully meet the needs of older people. The global population of people aged 60 and over is projected to more than double by 2050, from 900 million in 2015 to about 2 billion.

Financial elderly exploitation

According to recent studies, the financial exploitation of older persons is a common serious problem. Globally, about 5-10 percent of older people are exposed to some form of financial exploitation. However, such violations are often not reported for many reasons, including the unwillingness of the victims themselves to expose such cases. Research on this issue is mainly based on voluntary reviews.

There are many forms of financial exploitation. In developing countries, cases of theft, forgery, misuse of property, and deprivation of access to funds are common. In the least developed countries, the most common form of financial exploitation is accusations of witchcraft as grounds for expropriation of property, eviction from home, or denial of inheritance rights to widows. Victims of financial exploitation are often dependent on those who commit such acts. A significant obstacle to solving this problem is the deeply rooted traditions and prejudices in society, as well as discriminatory laws in the field of inheritance, weak police authorities and an undeveloped criminal justice system.

elderly people
financial exploitation