This article is based on the lecture for the 2014 American Geriatrics Society Outstanding Scientific Achievement for Clinical Investigation Award. Elder abuse is a global public health and human rights problem. Evidence suggests that elder abuse is prevalent, predictable, costly, and sometimes fatal. This review will highlight the global epidemiology of elder abuse in terms of its prevalence, risk factors, and consequences in community populations.
In addition, this review identifies important knowledge gaps, such as a lack of consistency in definitions of elder abuse; insufficient research with regard to screening; and etiological, intervention, and prevention research. Concerted efforts from researchers, community organizations, healthcare and legal professionals, social service providers, and policy-makers should be promoted to address the global problem of elder abuse.
Finally, this review highlights the epidemiology of elder abuse and the complexities of research and practice. National longitudinal research is needed to better define the incidence, risk and protective factors, and consequences of elder abuse in diverse racial and ethnic populations. Health professionals should consider integrating routine screening of elder abuse in clinical practice, especially in high-risk populations. Patient-centered and culturally appropriate treatment and prevention strategies should be instituted to protect vulnerable populations. Although vast gaps remain in the field of elder abuse, unified and coordinated efforts at the national level must continue to preserve and protect the human rights of vulnerable aging populations.