Elder Abuse

In July of 2014, the U.S. Department of Justice and the Department of Health and Human Services issued a joint call for the country to tackle the serious societal problem of elder abuse, neglect and financial exploitation. According to these agencies, 1 in 10 Americans over the age of 60 has experienced elder abuse or neglect, making it a priority issue for elder justice advocates. Leaders in the aging field are concerned that the issue is poorly understood, stereotyped, little discussed and disconnected from meaningful policies of prevention and remediation. “Stemming the tide of abuse will require individuals, neighbors, communities, and public and private entities to take a hard look at how each of us encounters elder abuse – and commit to combat it,” said Kathy Greenlee, HHS’ Assistant Secretary for Aging and Administrator of the Administration for Community Living.

To that end, this research will integrate the topic of elder abuse into the Core Story of Aging while also providing discrete communications recommendations for advocates specifically working on elder abuse. The project is supported by Grantmakers in Aging with funding from the Archstone and John A. Hartford Foundations.

Research, Tools, and Applications

 "You Only Pray that Somebody Would Step In": Mapping the Gaps Between Expert and Public Understandings of Elder Abuse in America (2016). This report represents the first step in a larger effort to reframe public understanding of elder abuse. Analyzing qualitative interview data, the report examines patterns of public thinking and compares the public’s deep cultural understandings with the views of issue experts. Through this analysis, we find that the public struggles to see elder abuse as a societal problem that can and must be solved through collective action and public policy. The report concludes with initial recommendations for addressing this and other communication challenges. 

Strengthening the Support: How to Talk about Elder Abuse
This report summarizes and synthesizes research into framing elder abuse and outlines a practical, actionable communications strategy to put elder abuse on the public agenda and boost support for systemic solutions to prevent and address it.

Talking Elder Abuse: A FrameWorks Communications Toolkit
This collection of research and resources provides advocates against elder abuse with evidence-based tools to help the public understand elder abuse, change perceptions of it, and build support for solutions to it.