Elder Abuse Statistics: A Growing Problem Among a Growing Population

September 1, 2023 | Article by Chain | Cohn | Clark staff | Tips & Information

Elder Abuse Statistics: A Growing Problem Among a Growing Population

Elder abuse is the deliberate act of harming an elderly person. Elder abuse includes:

  • Physical abuse like hitting, restraining, or confining an elderly person, or elder sexual assault
  • Emotional abuse through threats, name calling, belittling, or humiliation
  • Financial abuse like stealing money, taking property, or taking advantage of an elder’s declining decision-making powers
  • Neglect by failing to provide food, water, or help with personal hygiene

As people age, their physical and mental capabilities may decline. These changes make the elderly population more reliant on family or professional caregivers—and more vulnerable to abuse and exploitation.

But how prevalent is elder abuse? In this blog, we examine elder abuse statistics worldwide, in the United States, and in California.

The United States: An Aging Country

In recent decades, two population trends—lower birth rates and increasing life expectancy—have contributed to rapid growth in the percentage of United States residents over the age of 65.

Data from the U.S. Census Bureau2016202020302060
U.S. population over 65 (millions)
U.S. total population (millions)323.1332.6355.1404.5
% of U.S. population over 6515.2%16.9%20.6%23.4%

As the table shows, the U.S. Census Bureau predicts that by 2030, one out of every five U.S. residents will be over retirement age [Table 1, page 4]. 

In California, the elderly (ages 65 and older) are expected to increase from 17.6% of the state’s population to 20.6% in 2030 and 25.5% in 2060 [Table P-1C]—one out of every four Californians.

As the elderly population swells, the potential for elder abuse multiplies, too—a growing problem among a growing population.

Elder Abuse Statistics: A Developing Picture

Because there are limited statistics available on elder abuse, the true extent of the mistreatment of the elderly is a developing picture.

In the United States, the National Adult Maltreatment Reporting System (NAMRS)—the first systematic attempt to collect national elder abuse data—was initiated only seven years ago, in 2016.

At Chain | Cohn | Clark, we’re committed to raising awareness of elder abuse and holding perpetrators accountable. The more we recognize the problem, the more we can learn about the extent of elder abuse, and the more we can do together to prevent it.

Elder Abuse Statistics Worldwide

Elder abuse is recognized as a significant issue both in the U.S. and worldwide.

In 2006, the International Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse declared June 15 World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD), an observance that was adopted by the United Nations in 2011 and has also been observed by the President of the United States.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), elder abuse is quite common worldwide. The WHO estimates that over 16% of community-dwelling adults aged 60 and older are abused each year and that abuse is even more prevalent in nursing homes and assisted living facilities.

Elder Abuse Statistics in the United States

The U.S. Department of Justice estimates that 10% of adults over 60 are abused each year but adds that elder abuse may be far more widespread because “research suggests that only one out of every 24 cases is reported.”

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) says that injuries resulting from elder abuse add over $5 billion to U.S. health care costs annually. To track elder abuse more closely, in 2016, the CDC published a set of “uniform definitions and recommended core data elements” for agencies and researchers that study elder abuse.

In The Elder Justice Roadmap, a publication that outlines expert opinions on how to respond to and prevent elder abuse, the U.S. Department of Justice reports that perhaps 50% of elderly dementia patients are neglected or abused and that cognitive decline increases an elderly person’s risk of being financially victimized.

In 2022, the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) logged more than 88,000 fraud cases with victims over 60 years of age. These cases resulted in financial losses of $3.1 billion—an 84% increase over losses reported in 2021.

Elder Abuse Statistics by State

More than 90% of elders are community-dwelling—that is, they live in their own homes and not in nursing homes or assisted living facilities. In most states, adult protective services (APS) agencies receive and investigate reports of abuse perpetrated against the elderly and disabled adults. 

NAMRS collects data from state APS agencies; hence, although it is a national repository for elder abuse statistics, it lacks information on those who live in long-term care facilities, and it does not provide state-by-state data.

Elder Abuse Statistics in California

Some state APS agencies only collect data on disabled adults; California APS tracks abuse cases for both disabled adults and elders. In 2022, California’s 58 APS agencies received 216,330 reports of abuse regarding elders and dependent adults [state APS dashboard Part C choose only 2022 months].

In California and many other states, long-term care ombudsmen investigate reports of abuse and help resolve complaints from residents of nursing homes and assisted living facilities. In 2021, California’s long-term care ombudsmen received more than 10,000 allegations of abuse:

  • 7,056 in nursing homes
  • 3,069 in residential care facilities
  • 432 in other institutions

Protecting the Elderly in Kern County

Although it’s difficult to know exactly how many elders are abused each year, it’s not hard to see that elder abuse is a significant and growing problem. Older adults deserve to be treated with dignity and respect, and our law firm strives to protect this vulnerable population by helping victims seek justice through elder abuse legal cases.

Chain | Cohn | Clark also speaks out to educate the community on elder abuse topics, such as:

The California Department of Aging projects a 192% increase in Kern County’s 60+ population by 2060—an indicator that the issue of elder abuse requires our vigilance and preventive action.

Experienced Bakersfield Elder Abuse Attorneys

The elder abuse lawyers at Chain | Cohn | Clark understand the far-reaching effects that elder abuse can have on victims. If you or a loved one was abused at home, adult day care, an assisted living facility, or a nursing home, we can help you pursue civil legal claims against the abuser.

Contact us today for a free, no-obligation review of your elder abuse case.