People of any age are vulnerable to abuse and exploitation and the older generation is no exception. Older people may well have been in a relationship for many years and have lived with domestic abuse or sexual violence throughout. They may still live in the belief that domestic abuse shouldn't be talked about.
As we age, our needs change and the impact of that is often reflected in the kind of support that we need. Where this support comes from and what it looks like will vary depending on our circumstances, but many people rely on relatives or close friends to help with day to day living.
In the vast majority of cases support from family is more than adequate and enables us to continue to live happy and healthy lives. There are times, however, when the person or people we trust to look after us neglect us, exploit us financially or abuse us mentally or physically. There are many cases in the national media that highlight the abuse suffered at the hands of wider family but in the case of close family members particularly, such as adult children, this is considered to be domestic abuse.
Sometimes paid carers abuse those who they should be caring for in much the same way. Whilst this is abuse and must be reported, it would not be considered as domestic abuse in the same way as when close family are involved.
What kinds of abuse do older people experience?
Older people can experience much the same forms of abuse as anyone else.
- Having money or possessions stolen or being pressurised into handing over money
- Not being consulted when decisions that affect them are made
- Being threatened, belittled or made to feel unworthy or embarrassed
- Being touched in a way that they don’t want to be touched, particularly sexually, and where they are not able to give consent
- Being physically hurt
- Having their needs neglected
- Not being given enough food
- Being refused access to medical appointments
- Being prevented from seeing family or friends
As with all forms of domestic abuse, the person living with the abuse may well not recognise it as such and may be unwilling, or unable, to seek help for themselves.
What can I do?
If you are concerned that someone is at immediate risk of harm, always contact the police by telephone on 999 or if it’s a medical emergency contact South West Ambulance Service on 999.
If you suspect domestic abuse or sexual violence, advice and support can be accessed from local services using our directory.
If you have a general concern about someone, say something. Contact the Torbay Safeguarding Adult’s Board in confidence by telephoning 01803 219700.
The UK's national charity advocating for safer ageing is Hourglass. They run a helpline and can offer advice and support if you are experiencing abuse at the hands of someone you love, or someone in a position of trust. They can also offer advice to concerned family or friends.