Contact details for Age Concern Elder Abuse Response Services

What is elder abuse?

Elder Abuse and Neglect is 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.


                        Definition adopted from WHO Toronto Declaration on the Global Prevention of Elder Abuse, 2002

For research into elder abuse and neglect please click here. 

What is Age Concern doing to prevent elder abuse?
What can you do to stop elder abuse?
What kinds of elder abuse are there?
How much elder abuse happens?
Who is involved in elder abuse?
What are the effects of elder abuse?
Warning signs of elder abuse
Why don't older people seek help?

Psychological Abuse

Louise Collins, Age Concern National Advisor for Elder Abuse and Neglect Prevention services speaks about her experiences in dealing with psychological abuse.


What is Age Concern doing to prevent elder abuse?

Age Concern provides free and confidential Elder Abuse Response Services in many major cities and provincial areas throughout New Zealand.  These services employ professional staff to work with older people and their carers, providing support and advocacy so that older people can be happy, healthy and safe. 

The services also raise awareness of elder abuse by providing education for aged care workers, community groups, families and anyone with an interest in the wellbeing of older people.  

There are also other providers of Elder Abuse Response Services.  Contact details for all these services are available here

Go to top of page

What can you do to stop elder abuse?

  • Treat older people with respect
  • Challenge ageist attitudes
  • Don’t ignore it, get help
  • Know how to recognise signs of elder abuse and neglect.

Go to top of page

What does elder abuse look like?

Commonly, several types of abuse occur together.  The types of abuse include:

Psychological Abuse

Behaviour causing mental anguish, stress or fear.  For example:

  • ridicule or threats

  • harassment or humiliation

  • preventing choice or decision-making

  • withholding affection.

Financial Abuse                                                 

Illegal or improper use of money, property or other assets.  For example:

  • unauthorised taking of money or possessions
  • misuse of power of attorney
  • failure to repay loans
  • use of home and/or utilities without contributing to costs
  • scams that rely on establishing a relationship with the older person with the intention of exploiting their savings and/or assets, e.g. romance scams.

Physical Abuse

Infliction of pain, injury or use of force.  For example:

  • hitting, pushing, rough handling
  • over-medication
  • inappropriate use of restraints or confinement.


Not providing for physical, emotional or social needs. For example:

  • inadequate food, clothing, shelter
  • lack of social contact, support
  • health needs not attended to.

Sexual Abuse

Non-consensual sexual acts or exploitive behaviours. For example:

  • inappropriate touching
  • sexual acts with someone unable to give consent.

Institutional Abuse

A policy or accepted practice within an organisation that disregards a person’s rights or causes harm. For example:

  • lack of respect for a person’s culture or customs
  • inappropriate rationing of continence products
  • inflexible routines e.g. breakfast at 8 am in the dining room.

Go to top of page

How prevalent is elder abuse?

Elder abuse is a global problem.  International studies report that 3% - 10% of older people experience abuse or neglect each year.  It happens to men and women of every religious, cultural, ethnic and income group. However, much abuse goes unreported.  It has been estimated that only 16% of all abuse incidents come to the attention of service agencies which can assist the older person to live safely.


Go to top of page

What’s happening in New Zealand?

Each year, Age Concern’s Elder Abuse and Neglect Prevention (EANP) services receive more than 2000 referrals for older people who may be facing elder abuse or neglect.  That’s eight referrals every working day.  About three quarters of these situations are confirmed to involve elder abuse or neglect. 

Often the abuse experienced by an older person involves more than one type of abuse.  In cases seen by Age Concern’s Elder Abuse and Neglect Prevention Services over the last three years:

  • 75% involved psychological abuse
  • over 50% involved financial abuse
  • 15-20% involved physical abuse
  • 10-15 % involved neglect
  • 10-15% involved self-neglect

Abuse is also identified by other agencies including health providers, the Police, lawyers, other community support organisations, and other non-Age Concern Elder Abuse and Neglect Prevention services.


Go to top of page

Who is involved?


Age Concerns report that they are dealing with an increasing number of older people who have become the victims of scams.  Predators are deliberately targeting lonely older people who have assets, forming friendships with them through the internet or in person, then requesting money for various hypothetical emergencies.  In many cases, it is the family that contacts Age Concern for assistance.  But the older person is often prepared to incur their loss in exchange for the proffered friendship.

  • Almost half of abused older people are over the age of 80
  • One third of abused older people live alone
  • Three quarters of alleged abusers are family members; and we know this often continues even when the older person moves to residential care
  • Almost half of alleged abusers are adult children
  • Abusers are as likely to be female as male.

Go to top of page

What are the effects of elder abuse?

The personal losses associated with abuse can be devastating and include the loss of independence, homes, lifesavings, health, dignity, and security. More than half the older people who are referred to Age Concern’s Elder Abuse and Neglect Prevention Services suffer debilitating long term health problems such as depression, anxiety disorders, loss of self esteem and exacerbation of chronic health conditions, as a direct result of elder abuse.  

Elder abuse also damages family relationships causing isolation and loneliness, grief and great sadness to the older person. Financial abuse can erode assets and savings so that the older person may find it difficult to buy essential medications, or pay for eye, ears and teeth care. They may not be able to pay bills and may even lose their home and possessions. Older people who have been abused lose their ability to live independently and require ongoing support from the health sector, or residential care.

Go to top of page

What are the warning signs?

The following MAY indicate an older person is being abused: 

• Unexplained behaviour, sleeping or eating habits
• Withdrawal and/or edginess
• Fear of a particular person
• Confusion
• Unexplained injuries
• Drowsiness (due to over-medication)
• Recoiling from touch
• Unusual withdrawals from bank accounts
• Unpaid bills, lack of money for necessities.

Go to top of page

Why don’t older people seek help when they are abused?

Some of the reasons why an older person does not tell anyone about the abuse are:

  • They blame themselves for the abuse
  • They are ashamed that the abuser is a family member
  • They depend on the abuser for support
  • They have low self-confidence and self-esteem
  • They don’t want to make a fuss
  • They are  afraid that if they complain the abuse will get worse
  • They are isolated, making it difficult for them to tell anyone
  • They do not know who to tell or how to get help
  • They have dementia or an illness that prevents them from telling anyone.