What is elder abuse?

We define elder abuse as:

"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 or violates their human or civil rights"

Everyone has the right to live life free from abuse and harm of any kind, however for many older people, abuse is a sad reality of life.   

Who abuses? 

Abuse can be carried out by anyone, but often the person being abused knows their abuser.  An abuse can be:

  • a partner, relative or friend
  • a service or care provider
  • a neighbour or friend
  • a health and social care worker or volunteer
  • an employer or another service user

Where does abuse happen?

Abuse can occur anywhere including an older person's own home or another person's home.  It can also happen in residential or nursing homes, hospitals or day care settings.

What are the types of abuse?

There are many forms of abuse but the main categories include:

Physical abuse

Sexual abuse


older lady with head in hands

Picture of older lady looking worried

Physical abuse involved using physical force or mistreating an older person.  It may include hitting, pushing, rough handling, over or under medicating or inappropriate use of restraint.

Click here to read more about physical abuse and the signs and indicators.

Sexual abuse is often the least talked about form of abuse of older people but it can and does happen.  It can take many forms, both contact and non-contact and may include indecent exposure, stalking, grooming, intentional touching and rape.

Click here to read more about sexual violence and abuse.

Neglect is withdrawing or not providing the help, care and support that an older person needs.  It can occur at home or in care homes and hospitals. 

Click here to read more about neglect including the signs and indicators.

Financial abuse Emotional/psychological abuse Domestic abuse

Financial abuse is the actual or attempted theft or fraud of an older person.  It can involve embezzlement, pressure exerted about wills or property, or exploitation involving money, property or assets.

Click here to read more about financial abuse and the signs and indicators.

Older lady with head in hands

Emotional or psychological abuse is behaviour that is harmful or inflicts mental distress on an older person.  It can involve humiliation, ridicule, provoking fear or threatening violence, coercion and controlling behaviour. 

Click here to read detailed information about emotional abuse.


Domestic abuse is threatening behaviour, violence or abuse inflicted on one person by another, where they are or have been intimate partners or family members, irrespective of gender or sexual orientation.

Click here to read more about domestic violence and abuse. 

If you are experiencing abuse, or know an older person who is at risk, call our freephone Helpline in confidence, for advice and support  080 8808 8141