Domestic violence is an escalating pattern of violence or intimidation by an intimate partner, which is used to gain power and control. Several categories of domestic violence against the elderly have been identified:
"Domestic violence grown old" is when domestic violence started earlier in life and persists into old age
"Late onset domestic violence" begins in old age. There may have been a strained relationship or emotional abuse earlier that got worse as the partners aged. When abuse begins or is exacerbated in old age, it is likely to be linked to:
- Changing roles of family members
- Sexual changes
Some older people enter into abusive relationships late in life
Who are the perpetrators?
- Perpetrators are spouses or intimate partners
- The majority are men
- Some perpetrators abuse drugs or alcohol. For a discussion of the relationship between abuse and substance abuse, click here.
Who is at risk?
- Older women whose relationships with their spouses or intimate partners were abusive or strained when they were younger.
- Older women who enter into intimate relationships late in life
What are the indicators?
Indicators of domestic violence are similar to those associated with physical abuse and/or sexual abuse (see physical abuse and sexual abuse). The following additional patterns are also characteristic:
- The frequency and severity of injuries are likely to increase over time
- Victims often experience intense confusion and disassociation
- Violent incidents are often preceded by periods of intensifying tension and followed by periods of apparent contrition on the part of perpetrators
How can I learn more?
- The National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA) has produced a fact sheet entitled Violence Against Women is an Older Women's Issue and Older Battered Women Resources. To order, contact NCEA in care of the National Association of State Units on Aging (NASUA); 1225 I Street, N.W., Suite 725; Washington, D.C. 20005; (202) 898-2586 or visit the NCEA website (by clicking here you will leave this web site).
- The following publications were produced by the National Committee for the Prevention of Elder Abuse. For more information and instructions on how to order them, click here.
- Elder Shelters: U.S., Canada, and Japan (1999, 12 pp)
- Support Groups for Older Victims of Domestic Violence: Sponsors and Programs (1998, 37 pp).
- The following publications were produced by the Goldman Institution on Aging. For more information and instructions in how to order them, click here.
- Older Battered Woman: Integrating Aging and Domestic Violence Services. 1996.
- Serving the Older Battered Woman: A Conference Planning Guide. 1997.
- The National Clearinghouse on Domestic Violence in Later Life, operated by the Wisconsin Coalition Against Domestic Violence, has the following publications available. For information on how to order them, click here.
- Elder Abuse (including domestic violence in later life): Potential Legal Remedies. This booklet provides information about potential criminal justice and civil actions to assist victims of elder abuse and the professionals that work with them.
- Elder Abuse, Neglect, and Family Violence: A Guide for Health Care Professionals. Provides general information about elder abuse, a flow chart to respond to suspected abuse, and specific tips on what health care providers can do. It lists common signs and symptoms, answers commonly asked questions, and identifies interventions.
- Safety Planning for Victims of Domestic Abuse. A brochure for domestic abuse victims of any age who may be abused by or afraid of their spouse/partner; boy/girlfriend; adult child or other family member. It provides instruction in planning for safety in advance of potentially dangerous situations.
- Financial Safety Planning for Older Women. This publication addresses the financial obstacles that prevent battered older women from leaving abusive relationships and how to overcome those obstacles.
- Just to Have a Peaceful Life. Video (10 minutes).This video tells the story of Pat, an older woman, who has been married to a physically and emotionally abusive husband for over 45 years. The video is an excellent training tool for illustrating the relationship between elder abuse and domestic violence. Available from:
Terra Nova Films, Inc.
9848 S. Winchester Avenue
Chicago, IL 60643
Telephone: (773) 881-8491 or (800) 779-8491
- Moving towards a peaceful life: Carole Seaver talks about the Milwaukee Women's Center and its older battered women's program. In nexus, A Publication for NCPEA Affiliates, October 1995 Click here to view.