Defining Abuse in Later Life & Elder Abuse

What is Abuse in Later Life?

NCALL defines abuse in later life as the willful abuse, neglect, abandonment, or financial exploitation of an older adult who is age 50+ by someone in an ongoing, trust-based relationship (i.e., spouse, partner, family member, or caregiver) with the victim. NCALL also considers sexual abuse of an older adult by anyone (including strangers) to be abuse in later life. Our definition of abuse in later life does not include other types of abuse committed by strangers, or self-neglect. With these considerations in mind, NCALL’s definition of abuse in later life intentionally calls attention to the nexus between domestic violence, sexual assault, and elder abuse. 

For a more detailed overview of abuse in later life, please click on the resource below:

If you think you or someone you know is being harmed, please click either of the links below to read more about what you can do:

What is Elder Abuse?

The Elder Justice Roadmap created by the field and for the field funded by the Department of Justice and Health and Human Services defines elder abuse as “abuse, neglect, abandonment, or financial exploitation of an older individual by another person or entity who has a trust-based relationship with the older adult or, any harm that occurs because an older person is targeted by a stranger based on their age or disability” (DOJ, 2013).  NCALL typically uses this definition of elder abuse in our materials and training.

Policy makers, researchers, practitioners and other professionals may use other definitions of elder abuse in their work.  Some definitions are based on a specific age.  Other definitions focus on the person’s vulnerability. Last, many state statutes and tribal codes include self-neglect in the definition of elder abuse, although increasingly professionals are differentiating between the case where an older adult is unable to provide care for him/herself and the case where a perpetrator is harming an older adult.

In order to determine the definition of elder abuse is in your community, we encourage you to review all applicable elder abuse and vulnerable adult statutes and/or tribal codes. 

For a more detailed overview of elder abuse, please click on the resource below:

To review current definitions from the elder abuse field, please click the link below:

To find out more about the forms of elder abuse, please click the link below: 



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