What Abuse? An Examination of Misperceptions of Elder Maltreatment.

Hope Buchanan*, Lesley Jessiman

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to conferencePosterpeer-review


Many studies have sadly revealed that peoples’ understanding of elder maltreatment can be quite poor, with many individuals failing to recognize even extreme cases of elder maltreatment. There are several factors that underpin these failures, such as ageism (Yon et al., 2010), the dementia status of the victim (Matsuda, 2007), or the age of the witness (Childs et al., 2000). The aim of our study was to further examine the factors involved in misperceptions. We created a series of hypothetical scenarios depicting the maltreatment of older adults with and without dementia, and asked older, middle aged and young adults to identify the maltreatment, identify the severity of the maltreatment and state their likelihood to report the maltreatment. We examined if the age of the observer, level of ageism and general knowledge of ageing influenced perceptions of elder maltreatment. We found a significant three-way interaction between age, maltreatment type and dementia status of the victim (p < 0.001). We also found significant associations between younger and middle-aged adults’ ageism scores, knowledge of ageing, their ability to identify maltreatment, and their likelihood to report maltreatment. Older adults’ self-ageism was also associated with perceptions of some types of elder maltreatment. In sum, perceptions appear to be in the eye of the beholder, influenced by age, maltreatment type, knowledge of ageing, and ageism. We therefore argue that education is paramount. Improving the understanding of older adults and reducing prejudicial views may go some way to improving identification and reporting of elder maltreatment.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusFirst published - Jul 2022
Externally publishedYes
EventThe British Society of Gerontology Conference - Online
Duration: 7 Jul 20219 Jul 2021


ConferenceThe British Society of Gerontology Conference


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