Abuse in Later Life (ALL)

“Elder abuse” is a very broad term, covering a wide range of behaviors. Preferred terminology for this type of abuse in the context of The Alliance’s services is Abuse in Later Life. The Alliance works to empower individuals beyond domestic and sexual violence. Abuse in Later Life (ALL) is the willful abuse, neglect, or financial exploitation of an older adult that is perpetrated by someone in an ongoing relationship (such as spouse, partner, family member, or caregiver) with the victim. The term Abuse in Later Life therefore calls attention to the intersection between domestic violence, sexual assault, and elder abuse. It is important to note that self-neglect is not an example of ALL, since there are no offenders when self-neglect occurs; however, self-neglect can be considered a facet of the broader term elder abuse.

The dynamics present in ALL are very similar to those found in any type of domestic abuse. Perpetrators will attempt to exert power and control over victims so that they can coerce or manipulate some benefit for themselves. These benefits can include money, a place to stay, access to prescription medication, or sexual gratification. These abusers feel entitled to do whatever necessary to get what they want out of the victim. These abusers may intimidate their victims and prevent them from reporting the abuse out of fear of retaliation.

When defining elder abuse, most entities use a minimum age threshold that ranges from 50-70. However, ALL applies to victims who are age 50 and older. There are many reasons for this seemingly low threshold. First and foremost, by age 50 there is a significant decrease in the number of victims accessing services from programs like The Alliance. Additionally, victims who are age 50 and older may need economic assistance to gain safe housing and live independently if they choose to leave their abuser. However, victims 50-62 are often ineligible for TANF (Temporary Aid to Needy Families) and Social Security because they no longer have children in the home and/or are not old enough for Social Security. Finally, this low threshold attempts to capture those older victims who have a shorter life expectancy because of experiences of trauma, poverty, mental illness, or lack of access to health care.

How does The Alliance serve survivors of ALL? Our programs are designed and funded to respond to intimate partner violence and sexual assault. If the abuser is an intimate partner, we can assist with all of our typical services, including emergency housing, legal support, peer support, and financial assistance. If the abuse is being perpetrated by a child, caregiver, or other person, we will give referrals to other community organizations better equipped to respond to the abuse. The Alliance is working towards increasing the utilization of our services by older adults through outreach and connections with community partners.

For more information about ALL and services that The Alliance offers, please see our website: http://alliancechaffee.org