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Risk and Protective Factors for Elder Abuse in Canada: Findings from the Canadian Longitudinal Study on Aging

October 25, 2023 @ 12:00 pm

Webinar: Risk and Protective Factors for Elder Abuse in Canada: Findings from the Canadian Longitudinal Study on Aging

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The development of effective elder abuse prevention efforts requires a sound understanding of the risk and protective factors that increase or decrease the likelihood of victimization. Extending previous research, the current study used data from the Canadian Longitudinal Study on Aging – a population-based cohort study – to identify elder abuse risk and protective factors. We used baseline (2015) characteristics or changes in characteristics over a three-year period to predict the prevalence and severity of both overall elder abuse and separate subtypes (emotional abuse, physical abuse, financial abuse) at follow-up (2018). Findings indicate that elder abuse is widespread: one out of every ten older adults reports experiencing some type of elder abuse each year. Abuse disproportionately impacts older adults living with or developing vulnerabilities over time related to physical health, functional capacity, cognitive capacity, and/or mental health. On the other hand, various forms of social support serve to protect older adults from elder abuse, including engagement with in-person or online social networks. Findings also point to a life course component: respondents reporting experiences of childhood maltreatment were more likely to report elder abuse in older adulthood. Findings can be used to help inform urgently needed prevention efforts.


Dr. David Burnes, professor at the University of Toronto, Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work, holds a Canada Research Chair on Older Adult Mistreatment Prevention. He completed a PhD at Columbia University School of Social, concentrating in gerontology and advanced practice. Dr. Burnes’ program of research focuses on elder mistreatment, including the development of basic knowledge (risk factors, prevalence, severity) and the design, evaluation, and measurement of interventions to prevent and respond to elder mistreatment. He advises major international organizations on elder mistreatment, such as the World Health Organization and National Institutes of Health, as well as federal and regional governments in Canada and the United States. Dr. Burnes also works with non-profit organizations, such as state-level adult protective services programs, on the development, implementation and measurement of elder mistreatment response and prevention programs. Dr. Burnes and colleagues developed RISE, an evidence-based, community-based elder mistreatment response program that works in partnership with other systems to respond to cases involving older adults who are at risk of or experiencing elder mistreatment or self-neglect. His interest in elder mistreatment stems from both family experience and clinical practice with older adults.