This report provides a gender-based analysis (GBA) of elder abuse in Canada. It provides information for creating bias-free, gender- and culturally-relevant research, policies and practices in elder abuse. It also describes the relevance and application of the findings to public health research, policies, programs and practices.
Abuse of older adults is also called elder abuse or abuse of seniors. The World Health Organization defines 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.” (Footnote 1 )
Elder abuse is grouped into several main categories:
Gender-based analysis (GBA) is a tool for understanding social processes. It allows government to respond with informed, effective and equitable options for policies, programs and legislation that addresses the needs of all Canadians.(Footnote 2 )
The use of a “gender lens” identifies how public policies, programs and practices affect men and women differently. This guides decision-makers so that adjustments can be made to achieve fairness and justice (equity) when gender differences cause inequalities and disadvantages.
In 2004, 3,370 incidents of violence against Canadians aged 65 and over were reported to police. Over one quarter (29%) of reported incidents against older people were committed by a family member.
Senior women were more likely than senior men to be victims of family violence. Four out of ten women (39%) were victimized by a family member, compared to two out of ten men (20%).
In 2004, the rate of violence against older women (44 per 100,000) was 22% higher than the rate of violence for older men (36 per 100,000).
In 2004, there were 50 homicides (23 men and 27 women) committed against seniors. Older women are more likely than older men to be killed by a family member.
In 1999, a higher proportion of older men (9%) than older women (6%) reported being victims of emotional or financial abuse (related to stealing of household property) by adult children, caregivers or spouses.(Footnote 3 )
There is little statistical data on the incidence and prevalence of elder abuse in the Aboriginal population.
There is also a lack of evidence to confirm if risk factors for elder abuse change in relation to ethnicity, race and culture of a particular group or community.(Footnote 4 )
Studies have shown that the characteristics of older victims are more likely to include:
Victims of financial abuse tend to be:
Perpetrator characteristics are more likely to include:
In 2004, one-third of senior victims sustained a minor injury (33%) as a result of an offence by a family member. Major injuries requiring medical assistance were experienced by 3% of victims.
In Canada, emergency shelters offer a safe place to live for women experiencing violence. Women’s shelters provide a range of services, programs and community outreach efforts, including support groups, counselling, legal information, advocacy, referrals and accompaniment. There are a limited number of emergency shelters for older men in Canada.
Four main types of laws used in Canada to protect older adults from abuse and neglect. These are:
However, even where provinces or territories have family violence laws, they are not used very often for abuse of seniors.
Status of Women Canada suggests the following factors be considered when examining policies and programs through a Gender-Based Analysis process:
The report also describes a culturally relevant Gender-Based Analysis developed by the Native Women’s Association of Canada and the BIAS FREE framework(Footnote 7 ) developed to identify biases in policy, program and research based on gender, race and ability.
Access to data that are disaggregated by sex and age, as well as by culture/race, socio-economic status, and identity would be beneficial to better understand this issue. More culturally-relevant research that addresses the age and gender dimensions of oppression and vulnerability in older age is also relevant.
The full report Elder Abuse in Canada: A Gender-Based Analysis was prepared by Peggy Edwards for the Division of Aging and Seniors, Public Health Agency of Canada, under the Federal Elder Abuse Initiative.