Hundreds of thousands of old people affected by domestic abuse
2 October 2019, 00:10
Every year at least 200,000 people over the age of 60 are victims of domestic abuse, according to an Age UK study.
The number may be even higher due to people being reluctant to report abuse inflicted by their loved ones or carers.
Additionally, the National Crime Survey does not record data for people over the age of 74 and so the figures could be well above the 200,000 cases recorded in 2017.
The charity is calling for data to be recorded for people of all ages in England and Wales.
Age UK's director, Caroline Abrahams, stressed more action is required to protect the elderly from abuse, including better links between the NHS and police.
She said: "There's a widespread misconception that domestic abuse only happens to younger people, but sadly hundreds of thousands of older people are affected too.
"We want to include provisions to bring older domestic abuse survivors in from the cold, and that means in particular recognising the important roles that health professionals can play in spotting when domestic abuse is going on and in supporting older survivors to get the help they need."
Age UK is demanding a new definition of domestic abuse to include abuse perpetrated by those who are in trusted positions and provide unpaid care, such as friends, neighbours and even family members.
Providing better training to health workers is necessary to spot abuse, say the charity, such as for staff who admit patients to hospital when abuse may come to light.
Ms Abrahams added: "It may well be that the first time domestic abuse comes to light is when an older person is admitted to hospital, or discharged back home, so it's the professionals working with older people in these contexts who need some specific training the most."
The charity's call comes as the Domestic Abuse Bill is due to receive its second reading in Parliament.
Age UK's survey found women were far more likely to fall victim of domestic abuse, high levels of fear and coercive or controlling behaviours.
One in four (23 per cent) victims of domestic homicide are also over the age of 60.
Adina Claire, acting co-chief executive of Women's Aid, wanted to remind people that domestic abuse can happen to women of any age.
She said: "We know, however, that some older women might not recognise their experience as domestic abuse or may find it difficult to ask for help because they are dependent on their abuser.
"We welcome Age UK's recommendations for the Domestic Abuse Bill, such as collecting data on all ages and embedding policy and practice across health and social care which will transform the support provided to older survivors, improving and saving lives."