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Elder Abuse

Chris Phillipson


Recognition of abuse as a feature of older people's lives has been present in research and social policy for at least three decades. Mistreatment of elderly people has, however, had a much longer history. At worst, it has taken the form of outright persecution of those who, lacking resources of any kind, were thrown upon the mercy of their fellow citizens. At another level, mistreatment has been expressed through intergenerational tensions, for example during periods of economic recession as families struggle with the pressures arising from meeting the care needs of older as well as younger generations ( Stearns 1986 ). At the same time, the meanings attached to, and the concerns expressed about, mistreatment of the old have varied from generation to generation. It is only very recently (in historical terms) that attempts have been made to translate a generalized concern about the suffering of the old into a more precisely defined concept of abuse. This transition has not been without difficulty, with complex issues raised about distinctions regarding the experience of abuse among different age groups, between various types of abuse, and the reasons for abusive behavior. In the UK, the first discussions about elder abuse occurred in the mid-1970s, although no systematic research on the topic was completed until the early 1990s. Thereafter, there was a significant growth of interest, ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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