David Burnes

Assistant Professor; Columbia University School of Social Work (PhD); University of Toronto, Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work (MSW); University of Guelph Sciences (Mathematics)
Office Location: 

Room 338

Research Interests: 

Elder abuse/mistreatment

Financial exploitation of older adults (family abuse, scam/frauds, identity theft)

Elder resident-to-resident aggression in nursing homes

Goal Attainment Scaling


Dr. David Burnes is an Assistant Professor at the University of Toronto, Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work and an Affiliate Scientist at Baycest Health Sciences, Rotman Research Institute. Dr. Burnes completed a PhD at Columbia University School of Social Work in New York City, concentrating in gerontology and advanced social work practice.

Dr. Burnes’ program of research centers around the issue of elder mistreatment (abuse, neglect, financial exploitation). Elder mistreatment is a pervasive public health issue with major consequences to older adults and costs to society. Approximately one in ten older adults experience some form of elder mistreatment each year. Without effective primary prevention strategies in place, the scope of this problem is expected to nearly double over the next 20 years in accordance with population aging trends.

Dr. Burnes’ research focuses on understanding and preventing elder mistreatment in community and long-term care settings, including the development of basic science (prevalence, risk factors, severity), problem conceptualization/theorization, developing/evaluating evidence-based interventions, and developing innovative outcome measures that address the heterogeneity of elder mistreatment phenomena. Dr. Burnes has published several peer-reviewed research papers on the topic of elder mistreatment, including papers in top gerontology journals (e.g., Journal of the American Geriatrics Society; The Gerontologist; The Journals of Gerontology, Series B – Social Sciences). He has obtained several external research grants to fund elder mistreatment research, including federal-level grants from Canada (Social Science and Humanities Research Council [SSHRC]) and the U.S. (National Institute of Justice). Dr. Burnes has been invited to advise and contribute to major international organizations as an elder mistreatment expert, including the World Health Organization and National Institutes of Health (NIH).  Currently, Dr. Burnes is working with the Government of Ontario’s Ministry of Senior Affairs as the lead investigator on a project to understand the state of the province’s community-based elder mistreatment response system and to provide recommendations toward a more effective and sustainable approach.

Dr. Burnes teaches the following courses: Social Work Practice with Individuals and Families, Principles of Aging, Informal Caregiving with Older Adults, and Elder Abuse.

Book Chapters: 
  • Pillemer, K., & Burnes, D. (2018). Elder abuse. In M. H. Bornstein (Ed.),The Sage Encyclopedia of Lifespan Human Development. Pages 177-179. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
  • Burnes, D., Bachman, R., & Lachs, M.S. (2017). Elder crime victimization. In E.A. Capezuti, M. Malone, P. Katz, & M. Mezey (Eds.), Encyclopedia of elder care (4th). Pages 177-179. New York, NY: Springer Publishing Company
  • Burnes, D., Zhao, R, & Pillemer, K. (2017). Violence and aggression in older adults: What works? What works best? In P. Sturmey (Ed.), Section 106. The Wiley Handbook of Violence and Aggression. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons Inc.
  • Lachs, M.S., Bachman, R., Burnes, D. (2013). Elder crime victimization. In E.A. Capezuti, M. Malone, P. Katz, & M. Mezey (Eds.), Encyclopedia of elder care (3rd). Pages 176-178. New York, NY: Springer Publishing Company
Invited Publications: 
  • Pillemer, K., Burnes, D., Riffin, C., & Lachs, M.S. (In Press). Elder abuse: Background paper. World Health Organization (WHO): World Report on Ageing and Health.
Publications In Refereed Journals: 
  • Burnes, D., Breckman, R., Henderson Jr, C., Lachs, M.S., & Pillemer, K. (in press). Utilization of formal support services for elder abuse: Do informal supporters make a difference? The Gerontologist. doi:10.1093/geront/gny074
  • Burnes, D., Connolly, MT., & Lachs, M.S. (in press). Use of goal attainment scaling to measure case resolution in elder abuse and neglect intervention: A feasibility study. Journal of Elder Abuse & Neglect. doi:1080/08946566.2018.1454864
  • Breckman, R., Burnes, D., Ross, S., Marshall, P.C., Suitor, J., Lachs, M.S., & Pillemer, K. (2017). When helping hurts: Non-abusing family, friends and neighbors in the lives of elder mistreatment victims. The Gerontologist. Advance Online Publication, 1-5. doi:1093/geront/gnw257
  • Burnes, D., Pillemer, K., & Lachs, M.S. (2017). Elder abuse severity: A critical but understudied dimension of victimization for clinicians and researchers. The Gerontologist, 57, 745-756. doi:1093/geront/gnv688.
  • Burnes, D., Henderson, C., Sheppard, C., Zhao, R., Pillemer, K., & Lachs, M.S. (2017). Prevalence of Financial Fraud and Scams Among Older Adults in the United States: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. American Journal of Public Health (AJPH), 107, e13-e31. doi:10.2105/AJPH.2017.303821
  • Burnes, D. (2017). Community elder mistreatment intervention with capable older adults: Towards a conceptual practice model. The Gerontologist, 57, 409-416. doi:1093/geront/gnv692.
  • Burnes, D., Lachs, M.S., Burnette, D., & Pillemer, K. (2017). Varying appraisals of elder mistreatment among victims: Findings from a population-based study. The Journals of Gerontology, Series B: Social Sciences. Advance Online Publication, 1-10. doi:1093/geront/gnw257
  • Burnes, D. & Lachs, M.S. (2017). The case for individualized goal attainment scaling measurement in elder abuse interventions. Journal of Applied Gerontology, 36, 116-122. doi:1177/0733464815581486.
  • Pillemer, K., Burnes, D., Riffin, C., & Lachs, M.S. (2016). Elder abuse: Global situation, risk factors and prevention strategies. The Gerontologist, 56, S194-S205. doi:10.1093/geront/gnw004.
  • Teresi, J.A., Burnes, D., Skowron, E.A., Dutton, M.A., Mosqueda, L., Lachs, M.S., & Pillemer, K. (2016). State-of-the-science on prevention of elder abuse and lessons learned from child abuse and domestic violence prevention: Toward a conceptual framework for research. Journal of Elder Abuse & Neglect, 28, 263-300. doi:10.1080/08946566.2016.1240053
  • Burnes, D., Rizzo, V.M., Gorroochurn, P., Pollack, M., & Lachs, M.S. (2016). Understanding service utilization in cases of elder abuse to inform best practices. Journal of Applied Gerontology, 35, 1036-1057. doi:1177/0733464814563609.
  • Burnes, D., Pillemer, K., Caccamise, P.L., Mason, A., Henderson, C.R., Berman, J.,…Lachs, M.S. (2015). Prevalence of and risk factors for elder abuse and neglect in the community: A population-based study. Journal of the American Geriatric Society (JAGS), 63, 1906-1912. doi:10.1111/jgs.13601.
  • Rizzo, V.M., Burnes, D., & Chalfy, A. (2015). A systematic evaluation of a multidisciplinary social work–lawyer elder mistreatment intervention model. Journal of Elder Abuse & Neglect, 27, 1-18. doi:10.1080/08946566.2013.792104.
  • McDonald, L., Hitzig, S.L.,Pillemer, K.A., Lachs, M.S., Beaulieu, M., Brownell. P., Burnes, D.,…,Thomas C.  (2015). Developing a research agenda on resident-to-resident aggression: Recommendations from a consensus conference.  Journal of Elder Abuse & Neglect, 27(2), 146-167. doi:1080/08946566.2014.995869.
  • Peterson, J.C., Burnes, D., Caccamise, P.L., Mason, A., Henderson, C.R.,…Pillemer, K., Lachs. M.S. (2014). Financial exploitation of older adults: A population-based study. Journal of General Internal Medicine, 29, 1615-1623. doi:10.1007/s11606-014-2946-2.
  • Burnes, D., Rizzo, V.M. & Courtney, E. (2014). Elder abuse and neglect risk alleviation in protective services. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 29, 2091-2113. doi:1177/0886260513516387.
  • Burnes, D., & Burnette, D. (2013). Broadening the etiological discourse on Alzheimer’s disease to include trauma and posttraumatic stress disorder as psychosocial risk factors. Journal of Aging Studies, 27, 218-224. doi:10.1016/j.jaging.2013.03.002.
  • Burnes, D. (2011). Approaching mental health work with older adults. [peer-reviewed review of the book Aging and mental health, 2nd, by D.L. Segal, S.H. Qualls, & M.A. Smyer]. The Gerontologist, 51, 576-578. doi:10.1093/geront/gnr075.
  • Burnes, D., Antle, B.J., Williams, C.C., & Cook, L. (2008). Mothers raising children with sickle cell disease at the intersection of race, gender, and illness stigma. Health and Social Work, 33, 211-220. doi:1093/hsw/33.3.211.
  • Barrera, M., Andrews, G., & Burnes, D. (2008). Age differences in perceived social support by pediatric hematopoietic progenitor cell transplant patients: A longitudinal study. Child: Care, Health and Development, 34, 19-24. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2214.2007.00785.x.
Other Selected Publications: 
  • Burnes, D. (2012). A cross-national comparison of perceptions of aging and older adults. Proceedings of the United Nations NGO Committee on Ageing (COA), New York, USA.
  • Burnes, D. (2011). Book review. [Review of the book Trauma: Contemporary directions in theory, practice, and research, by S. Ringel, & J.R. Brandell]. Smith College Studies in Social Work, 81(4), 391-394. doi:10.1080/00377317.2011.616842
Awards and Honors: 


  • Gerontological Society of America (GSA) 2016 Senior Service America Junior Scholar Award
  • Invited elder abuse expert speaker/advisor at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) research planning meeting: Multiple Approaches to Understanding and Preventing Elder Abuse and Mistreatment (2015)
  • National Doctoral Student Leadership Award – Association for Gerontology Education in Social Work (2013)
  • Ruth Fizdale Dissertation Award in Aging and Social Services (2013)
  • Sylvia Rosenberg Dissertation Award in Aging & Mental Health (2013
External Research Grants: 
  • Principal Investigator, U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) – R01 – 1R01AG060080-01 (2018 – 2021)
  • Co-Principal Investigator, U.S National Institute of Justice (NIJ) – NIJ-2017-11185 (2018 – 2021)
  • Principal Investigator, Social Science and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) – Insight Grant (2017 – 2020)
  • Principal Investigator, Elder Justice Foundation Grant (2016 – 2018)
  • Principal Investigator, Social Science and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) – Insight Development Grant (2015 – 2017)
  • Principal Investigator, Ontario Research Coalition of Research Institutes – Early Researcher Award (2014 – 2016)
  • Principal Investigator, Social Science and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) Doctoral Fellowship (2012 – 2014)
  • Co-Investigator, Jewish Association Serving the Aging (JASA) – Research Institute Contract (2011 – 2013)
  • Principal Investigator, National Anemia Institute for Research and Education (2005)
University Research Grants: 
  • University of Toronto Connaught Fund – New Researcher Award (2015 – 2017)
  • Social Science and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) Institutional Research Grant (2016)
  • Social Science and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) Institutional Research Grant (2015)
  • Social Science and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) Institutional Research Grant (2014)
  • Social Science and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) Institutional Travel Grant (2014)
  • Columbia University School of Social Work – Doctoral Studies Research Scholarship (2010 – 2013)