A Total Indifference to Our Dignity: Older People’s Understandings of Elder Abuse

Marita O'Brien, Emer Begley, Janet Carter Anand, Campbell Killick, Brian J Taylor

Research output: Book/ReportCommissioned reportpeer-review

478 Downloads (Pure)


Elder abuse is increasingly recognised but older people’s concept of abuse remains unknown. This study aimed to shed light on how older people understand elder abuse and how these understandings affect their use of support services. Eight focus groups were carried out across Ireland between October 2010 and February 2011. A total of 58 people aged 65 years and over took part. Following training in research methods, specifically in facilitating focus groups and data analysis, four lay people aged over 60 years became part of the research team as ‘peer-researchers’.Abuse was not seen as a stand-alone event but a subtle, gradual process that usually involved an element of psychological pressure where older people believed that saying ‘no’ would have significant negative repercussions on their well-being and safety. Psychological aspects were perceived as central in determining the severity or impact of abuse on an older person. Being able to stand up for oneself was relevant in determining elder abuse. The delineation between neglect and care required an understanding of intentionality on the part of family members; actions that might be viewed by others as abusive might be acceptable in order to enable the older person to continue living at home. The erosion of respect was seen as a major abuse aspect of society.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherAge Action Ireland
Number of pages92
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 15 Jun 2011


  • elder abuse
  • adult protection
  • social work


Dive into the research topics of 'A Total Indifference to Our Dignity: Older People’s Understandings of Elder Abuse'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this