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Research

Why violence against older people needs more attention

(29 November 2018)

One in four killings by a loved one involves a victim over the age of 60, says new research.

The study shines a light on the level and nature of violence against the elderly.

It challenges the widely-used assumption that older people are not at risk, or at very low risk, of violent offences. This is resulting in missed opportunities to spot and prevent violence against people over 60.

The research also found that older people are equally likely to be killed by their partner as by their child or grandchild.

The study recommends more training and improved risk assessment for social workers, police forces and health professionals to help spot signs of potentially dangerous relationships, including those between parents and adult children.

The figures behind the research

The findings, based on a Freedom of Information request to all police forces in the UK over a five-year period, show that most victims were female, the majority of the killings happened in the victim’s home and stabbing was the most common method of killing.

There were an average of 40 domestic homicides per year involving an older victim and perpetrators were split roughly 50/50 between being a partner/ex-partner and a child/grandchild.

The issue with ageist stereotypes

In domestic homicide cases, a previous history of domestic violence is one of the most common risk factors with around 70 per cent of men who kill having a history of using violence against their partner.

However, most risk assessment tools currently used widely by professionals are focused on younger people which may result in older people slipping through the net.

Study author Dr Hannah Bows, Assistant Professor in Criminal Law at Durham University, said: “Older people in our society are not immune to violence but there is an assumption that they are not as much at risk of violence as younger people. Ageist stereotypes also mean older victims are often overlooked by police forces, health professionals and other key agencies.

“It is clear that violence against older people is much more common than we might think and better awareness and risk assessment may be needed to tackle this.”

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