It is generally a positive sign that the elderly population in the US is increasing. Due to an increase in resources, medical advancements, and compassionate communities, people have been able to live longer, happier post-retirement lives. In 2018, there were over 52 million people aged 65 or older in the US, and that number is expected to be around 80 million within 25 years. It is expected that the number of elders in nursing homes will increase by 50% by 2030. It’s logical to believe that as the elderly population increases, more attention is being given to this group, but eerily, the opposite is true.
Elder abuse can be classified into 5 categories: neglect, financial abuse, psychological abuse, physical abuse, and sexual abuse. In any given year, 1 in 10 American seniors reported that they experienced some kind of abuse in the last year. There is a general lack of data on elder abuse due to it being a relatively new area of study. Additionally, underreporting of elder abuse is a major issue, as studies suggest that only 1 in 24 cases are reported.
The number only increases in more vulnerable elderly people, with nearly 1 and 2 elderly adults with dementia or other cognitive impairments having experienced abuse. Elders are more at risk if they are lower in socioeconomic status, have cognitive disabilities, mental health issues, or prior exposure to trauma.
Studies have concluded that distressingly, elder abuse is increasing. Nonfatal assaults on elderly men increased by 75% from 2002 to 2016, and increased by 35% in elderly women from 2007 to 2016. A 2017 global study found that 15.7% of people over 60 experienced abuse, but the study concluded this number is likely an underestimate. Additionally, new data is surfacing that suggests that during the COVID-19 pandemic, rates of elder abuse in the US may have skyrocketed by as much as 84%.
This is especially true in more populated states like California, as a study concluded that 11% of United States elder abuse cases each year occur in the Golden State. There’s a notable concentration of elder abuse cases in Southern California, with over 16,000 elders in Los Angeles County stating that they’ve experienced some form of abuse. Underreporting has led to a lack of statistics in other parts of Southern California, but unfortunately, similar rates across the nearby counties are suspected as well. There is a noticeable trend of an increased rate of abuse where budgets and resources for elder protection services are stretched thin, and Southern California fits this description. It’s extremely important to report possible elder abuse as soon as it’s suspected, as well as seek justice for the victim by contacting a lawyer who specializes in elder abuse. The more this issue is documented, the better it can be understood and prevented.