The Influence of Culture, Race, and Ethnicity on Elder Mistreatment

Author: David V. Flores, PhD, LMSW, MPH, CPH


The makeup of the older population will be more racially and ethnically diverse than any other older generation in U.S history (Institute of Medicine, 2012; U.S. Census Bureau, 2010). These demographic changes will also result in a shift in cultural norms, perceptions, and traditions.

The National Center on Aging Abuse (2013) defines elder mistreatment (EM) as

"any knowing, intentional, or negligent act by a caregiver or any other person that causes harm or a serious risk of harm to a vulnerable adult” and “encompasses physical, psychological, sexual exploitation, neglect and self-neglect" (Dyer et al., 2008; Lachs, Williams, O’Brien, Hurst, & Horwitz, 1997; World Health Organization, 2006).

EM is an independent risk factor for early mortality. Victims have three times the odds of early mortality compared to demographically matched non-victims. The World Health Organization (WHO) has identified common risk factors and co-morbidities for victims including:

Culture frames perceptions of elder mistreatment regarding causes of, responses to, enabling of, and personal responsibility towards elder mistreatment (Bowes, 2012; Cardona, Meyer, Schiamberg, & Post, 2007; Flores et al., 2013; Prado, Szapocznik, Maldonado-Molina, Schwartz, & Pantin, 2008; Rapoza, 2006).

Studies on the influences of culture, race, and ethnicity on elder mistreatment are limited. Preliminary research indicates that much of what we know about EM comes from international sources and there remains a significant lack of research on the cultural, racial and ethnic influences on elder mistreatment in the U.S.


Key Points



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