Abuse of Older People

a serious public health & societal problem

In an emergency, call 000
or Lifeline 13 11 14
for 24-hour crisis support

According to the World Health Organisation, abuse of older people (commonly referred to as Elder Abuse) is “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”.

This includes physical, sexual, financial, psychological, social abuse, isolation and neglect.

As the perpetrators are frequently family members or partners of the victims, abuse of an older person is sometimes considered a form of domestic or family violence (Our Watch, n.d.; Seniors Rights Victoria, 2018).

However, there is increasing evidence of violence towards elderly people in residential aged care and home care settings (Phil Mercer, 2018).

Gender-based violence and abuse of older people remain separated in research and practice, making the problem of violence against older women invisible on the policy front with few specific interventions.

“…the abuse of older people is a complex health and social problem that can have devastating physical, emotional and social consequences for older people, their families and their communities. “

All governments in Australia agree that we must act now to do more to reduce the prevalence of abuse of older people. (National Plan to Respond to the Abuse of Older Australians (Elder Abuse)2019–2023)

Virtually all countries are expected to see substantial growth in the number of older people between 2015 and 2030, and that growth will be faster in developing regions.
Because the numbers of older people are growing, the amount of elder abuse can be expected to grow with it (United Nations).

More than 30 calls a day were made to elder abuse helplines across Australia in 2017–18

Source:  Australian Institute of Health and Welfare


Abuse affects up to 14% of older Australians


70% of older victims of abuse are women.

An elderly woman sitting near a window in her house.

Every older person has the right to:

  • Control and access their own money;
  • Attend appointments without another person;
  • Choose to see family and friends when they want;
  • Have easy access to clean clothes, food and their own medication; and
  • Have the right to feel safe and be treated with dignity and respect in their own home and in the community.

Abuse of older people is beginning to be acknowledged as a serious issue in Australia.

OWN NSW is a member of the Inner West Region Elder Abuse Collaborative. 

You can raise concerns about your own wellbeing or of any older person currently being abused or mistreated by someone they know in their home or in the community. Contact the Ageing and Disability Abuse Helpline on 1800 628 112.

  • You can also get information on what services are available to help. You can find a support services at the Compass: National Elder Abuse Knowledge Hub.
  • Speak with a trained professional about your concerns.
  • Be supported to make an anonymous report, and be heard without judgement.


Important numbers


In an emergency, call 000 or Lifeline 13 11 14 for 24-hour crisis support

Ageing and Disability Abuse Hotline

If you or someone you know is not free to make their own choices, contact:

Ageing and Disability Abuse Hotline: 1800 628 221 (Monday to Friday, 9am – 5pm)

Information or advice

If you need information or advice about Abuse of Older People, call: 

1800 ELDERHelp (1800 353 374).

This free number will redirect you to an existing phone service near you. This is not a 24-hour line. Call operating times will vary.

Compass: National Elder Abuse Knowledge Hub
If you or someone you know needs help tackling elder abuse, you can start with Compass.

National Relay Service

National Relay Service: 1800 555 660

Text telephone: 133 667

Interpreter Services: 131 450

Our Work

We invite you to walk with the older women who have BEEN sexually assaulted


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