Elder Abuse

Domestic violence is an escalating pattern of violence or intimidation by an intimate partner, which is used to gain power and control. Several categories of domestic violence against the elderly have been identified:

"Domestic violence grown old" is when domestic violence started earlier in life and persists into old age. Often the adult children have left the house and are in limited contact with their parents because of the strain the abuse put on the family unit.

"Late onset domestic violence" begins in old age. There may have been a strained relationship or emotional abuse earlier in life that became worse as the partners aged. When abuse begins or is exacerbated in old age, it is likely to be linked to: 
  • Retirement
  • Disability
  • Changing roles of family members
  • Sexual changes
Some older people enter into abusive relationships late in life. An older adult’s spouse might have died; therefore, the individual is lonely and enter into a relationship that is not healthy. 

Who are the perpetrators? 
  • Spouses or intimate partners
  • The majority are men
  • Drug and/or alcohol abusers 

Who is at risk? 
  • Older individuals whose relationships with their spouses or intimate partners were abusive or strained when they were younger.
  • Older individuals who enter into intimate relationships late in life 

What are the indicators? 

Indicators of domestic violence are similar to those associated with physical abuse and/or sexual abuse (see physical abuse and sexual abuse). The following additional patterns are also characteristic: 

  • The frequency and severity of injuries are likely to increase over time
  • Victims often experience intense confusion and disassociation
  • Violent incidents are often preceded by periods of intensifying tension and followed by periods of apparent contrition on the part of perpetrators. 

In order to report elder abuse contact the Missouri Division of Aging Hotline: 1-800-392-0210.