Ground-breaking research reveals extent of elder abuse around the world

PRESS RELEASE: Strictly embargoed until 00:01am 15 June 2013

To mark World Elder Abuse Awareness Day on 15 June 2013, HelpAge International has published new research that reveals the high levels of violence and abuse experienced by older women and men around the world.

In Mozambique, Peru and Kyrgyzstan, a sample of 100 people over the age of 50 were surveyed in each country about their experiences of a number of different forms of violence and abuse - financial, emotional, physical and sexual abuse and malicious accusations.

63% of all respondents said they had suffered some form of abuse since they were 50 - in Peru this percentage was above 80% for both the men and women surveyed.

  • The most prevalent form of abuse experienced by respondents was financial abuse - with 76% of older men and 61% of older women of those surveyed in Peru having experienced theft, deception, eviction or other actions involving money or property.
  • In Kyrgyzstan, financial abuse was also the most prevalent form but the overall percentage of respondents reporting abuse was lower than in other countries - 27% of women and 20% of men.
  • In Mozambique, the most prevalent form of abuse experienced by respondents was emotional abuse, experienced by 50% of women and 42% of men.
  • Mozambique had the highest prevalence of malicious accusations among respondents in the three countries surveyed: 43% of older women and 35% of older men in Mozambique who took part in the survey had experienced this form of abuse which includes allegations of witchcraft.

The new study - conducted in collaboration with the Centre for the Analysis of Social Exclusion at the London School of Economics - explores older women and men's understanding around their human rights and sheds new light on both the levels of abuse experienced and the diversity of the forms of abuse. The work gathers research data on elder abuse in developing countries where such information is usually unavailable. A full report looking at the broader experiences of older people in the areas of health, political participation, respect for life and standard of living will be published later in the year.

Eppu Mikkonen-Jeanneret, Head of Policy at HelpAge International, said:

"This new research reveals the wide extent and different forms of violence and abuse that older women and older men are experiencing across a wide range of different social and cultural contexts. It shows that even in low income countries, financial abuse in old age is widespread.

"Our survey highlights the fact that violence against women does not stop at the age of 49 - unlike most of the research in this area which does not provide data for the experiences of older people. The findings confirm that women continue to experience physical and sexual violence alongside financial and emotional abuse and malicious accusations in old age. The survey also reveals the extent to which men are experiencing different forms of violence and abuse in old age."

The call for a new convention

World Elder Abuse Awareness Day will see older rights activists taking part in the Age Demands Action for Rights Campaign in more than 20 countries meeting key decision-makers to urge their governments to insist on a new United Nations convention on the rights of older people. Through Age Demands Action for Rights, older people have a voice calling for their own convention. In more than 20 countries, older activists will be calling on their governments to attend the UN Open-ended Working Group on Ageing (OEWG) where a new UN convention is being discussed.

Kenneth Hemley, 73, an Age Demands Action leader from Jamaica, explained why a UN convention on the rights of older people is necessary:

"Having a convention on older people's rights would be a step in the right direction. Everyone should be protected under the law. It would make people more aware of their rights throughout the entire world. This is something which affects every older person. We are not begging, we are demanding that our rights be respected. So world leaders, do something for the older people of your nation!"


Notes to Editors

1. The World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD) happens each year on June 15th. It represents the one day in the year when the whole world voices its opposition to the abuse and suffering inflicted to some of our older generations. Elder Abuse is a global social issue which affects the Health and Human Rights of millions of older persons around the world, and an issue which deserves the attention of the international community.

2. The full survey results with case studies can be found in HelpAge's submission to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights:
The sample sizes were small and so we cannot draw inferences about the prevalence across the population as a whole but we can see multiple forms of violence are being experienced by older women and men across different social and cultural contexts.

3. The full survey explored older people's experience of multiple discrimination and rights violations. It covered the 5 areas of rights and included questions on knowledge and understanding of human rights:

• The right to protection from violence, abuse and neglect
• The right to the highest attainable standard of health
• The right to political influence, participation and voice
• The right to respect for individual and family life
• The right to an adequate standard of living

An initial desk based research of available data showed that there was virtually no data available disaggregated by age and sex over the age of 50 for the indicators that we had developed.

4. HelpAge carried out the survey in Mozambique, Peru and Kyrgyzstan in 2012. Each country surveyed a sample of 100 people over the age of 50 from rural and urban communities across the country. In each country the survey was carried out through a local research organisation. The findings have analysed by the LSE. A research report and 3 country factsheets will be produced from the findings. A final survey and guidelines will be produced at the end of the project for use elsewhere.

This research was carried out with the financial assistance of the German Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development. The contents of this document are the sole responsibility of HelpAge International and do not necessarily reflect the views of BMZ.

5. Towards a new convention

Older people have the right to protection from all forms of violence and abuse as well as from all forms of discrimination. However, the human rights obligation on governments to protect people from elder abuse is not explicitly articulated in existing international human rights law. A patchwork of national legislation, policies, strategies and plans that differ from country to country undermines the universality of human rights and every woman and man's right to freedom from violence and abuse throughout every stage of their lives. For this reason, the adoption of such universal standards within a new UN convention on the rights of older people would provide every government with guidance on how to improve their domestic legislation and practice, including around elder abuse, so that it is in line with international human rights standards.

6. Age Demands Action for Rights:

Older women and men have the same rights as everyone else: we are all born equal and this does not change as we grow older. Despite this, older women and men around the world continue to be discriminated against and denied their rights because of their old age.

International human rights law does not currently address the specific human rights violations that people experience in old age. A new convention on the rights of older people would prohibit this area of discrimination. It would articulate how each human right specifically applies in the context of old age and outline what steps States must take to respect, protect and fulfil these rights.

Sign the ADA petition for a new UN convention on the rights of older people here:

About HelpAge International

HelpAge International helps older people claim their rights, challenge discrimination and overcome poverty, so that they can lead dignified, secure, active and healthy lives. Our work is strengthened through our global network of like-minded organisations - the only one of its kind in the world.

Contact Attila Kulcsar at HelpAge International's office in London on +44 (0) 20 7148 7623 (mobile: +44 (0) 7713 567624 or email