New database aims to accelerate global action against elder abuse


To mark World Elder Abuse Awareness Day 2024, the World Health Organization (WHO) has released an interactive database of 89 interventions that show promise to prevent and respond to the abuse of older people, also known as elder abuse.

This database is the first product of the UN Decade of Healthy Ageing’s Intervention Accelerator initiative on abuse of older people. The Intervention Accelerator is an international network of experts, led by WHO, working to develop a portfolio of effective approaches to address the abuse of older people.

Abuse of older people is widespread, with around 1 in 6 people aged 60 years and above in the community experiencing some form of abuse every year. Abuse of older people can have serious consequences for healthcare and well-being, including earlier death, physical injuries, depression, cognitive decline and poverty. However, until recently experts agreed there were no interventions scientifically proven to work to prevent and respond to abuse of older people, which may contribute to the under-prioritization of the issue globally.

“WHO’s new database is a critical first step towards developing and scaling up cost-effective solutions to address abuse of older people, which has been highlighted as one of five priorities to tackle the issue during the UN Decade of Healthy Ageing (2021–2030),” said Dr Etienne Krug, Director of the Department of Social Determinants of Health, WHO. “It is high time to do more as a global community to address this neglected but seriously harmful problem. I encourage all stakeholders committed to ending the abuse of older people to use and build on this evidence-based tool.”

The database contains 89 promising interventions identified through a rigorous search and screening of nearly 14 000 scientific studies. The aims of these interventions include:

  • improving knowledge of abuse of older people among professionals to increase the likelihood of detection and reporting;
  • raising awareness of the issue;
  • reducing mental health symptoms among victims of abuse; and
  • preventing abuse.

Older people who have experienced or are at risk of abuse were the main targets of these interventions, although a significant proportion were also aimed at caregivers, perpetrators of abuse and institutions. Over half of the identified interventions were implemented in the United States of America, which emphasises the need to conduct more research in low- and middle-income countries.

The new database is a rich repository of evidence-based interventions to address abuse of older people that can inform future research and practice in the field by governments, international organisations, civil society organisations, academics, practitioners, and funders. The UN Decade of Healthy Ageing Intervention Accelerator on abuse of older people will build on this database by further evaluating these interventions for refinement, adaptation and real-world testing. Ultimately, the aim is to create a portfolio of interventions, supported by high-quality evidence, that can be implemented and scaled up globally to prevent and respond to the abuse of older people.

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