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June 15, 2011

Enhancing National Policy and Programs to Address Elder Abuse

JAMA. 2011;305(23):2460-2461. doi:10.1001/jama.2011.835

The US aging population is rapidly increasing, many of whom are highly vulnerable, which increases their risk for elder abuse. The World Health Organization has declared that elder abuse is a violation of an older adult's fundamental rights to be safe and free of violence. Although prior research suggests the prevalence of elder abuse varies between 5% and 30%, recent estimates suggest that 1 in 10 older adults experience physical, psychological, and sexual abuse, neglect, and financial exploitation.1,2 At the same time, only a small fraction of elder abuse is reported to the Adult Protective Services (APS). Elder abuse is associated with morbidity and mortality, especially among vulnerable populations.3,4 In this Commentary, we highlight the existing elder abuse programs through 2 federal legislations: the Older American Act5 and the Violence Against Women Act,6 focusing on 4 major gaps in the field of elder abuse—funding, policy, research, and education/training.

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