Elder maltreatment

Elder maltreatment is defined as a single or repeated act or lack of appropriate action that causes harm or distress to older people, and can take different forms of abuse such as physical, mental, and sexual. It can also involve economic or financial abuse.

The prevalence in European Region suggests that 4 million people aged 60 years and over experienced maltreatment in the form of physical abuse, 1 million in the form of sexual abuse, 29 million in the form of mental abuse and 6 million older people are subjected to financial abuse.

It is estimated that by the year 2050, one third of the population in the European Region will be 60 years and older. The rapidly increase in the ageing population in the WHO European Region will put more elder people at risk of maltreatment. Older people may experience disability, increasing their dependence and demands on the family and caregivers. This may increase their exposure to risk and require a better resourced and trained health and social care workforce to respond to this need. Older people may also have reduced incomes increasing their dependence on family and societal support. Those living in deprived neighbourhoods are more at risk.

WHO has produced the “European report on preventing elder maltreatment” which describes the scale of the problem, the risks and highlights programmes for prevention. The growing concern in the European Region calls different sectors across government departments to work together on preventing elder maltreatment.