Elder abuse and neglect

Elder abuse is a single or repeated act, or lack of appropriate action, occurring within any relationship where there is an expectation of trust, which causes harm or distress to an older person. You can find more about what elder abuse is here.
Elder abuse can fit into different types of abuse, and often several types occur together. These include:

Psychological abuse

Causing mental anguish, stress, or fear. This could include:

  • Ridicule and humiliation
  • Threats, coercion, and bullying
  • Control, social isolation, and prevention of choice
  • Hostility and lack of affection

Financial abuse

Illegal or improper use of money, property, or other assets. This could include:

  • Unauthorised taking of money or possessions
  • Misuse of power of attorney
  • Failure to repay loans
  • Use of home and assets without contributing to costs
  • Scams that rely on establishing a relationship with the older person with the intention of exploiting their savings and/or assets, for example, romance scams

Physical abuse

Infliction of pain, injury, or use of force. This could include:

  • Hitting, pushing, or rough handling
  • Over-medicating
  • Inappropriate use of restraints or confinement


Not providing for physical, emotional, or social needs. This could include:

  • Inadequate food, clothing, or shelter
  • Lack of social contact or support
  • Not attending to health needs

Sexual abuse

Non-consensual sexual acts or exploitive behaviours. This could include:

  • Inappropriate touching
  • Sexual acts which are not wanted

Institutional abuse 

A policy or accepted practice within an organisation that disregards a person's rights or causes harm and distress. This could include:

  • Rigid routines that disregard a person's preferences
  • Lack of respect for a person's culture or customs
  • Inappropriate rationing of continence products

To read more about what elder abuse can look like, click here

How prevalent is elder abuse?

The New Zealand Longitudinal Study of Ageing has shown that 10% of over 65s living in our community experience abuse. It is estimated that only 1 in 14 abuse incidences are brought to the attention of a service agency that can intervene and help stop abuse.
Elder abuse can reduce the person’s independence, self-esteem, confidence, and safety, especially if the person is dependent on others. However, it can be hard for older people to talk about their abuse when it happens for a variety of reasons. Some of the reasons an older person may not talk about abuse include: 

  • They depend on the abuser for support
  • They have low self-confidence and self-esteem
  • They don't want to make a fuss
  • They are afraid that if they complain the abuse will get worse
  • They are isolated, so that it is difficult for them to tell anyone
  • They do not know who to tell or how to get help
  • They have dementia or an illness prevents them from telling anyone
  • They blame themselves for the abuse
  • They are ashamed that the abuser is a family/whānau member

Confidential Age Concern Elder Abuse Services can be found throughout the country, and you can find the contact details for your local support here.
If you cannot find a service close to you, please contact 0800 EA NOT OK (0800 32 668 65) or Age Concern on 0800 65 2 105.

World Elder Abuse Awareness Day

Awareness for elder abuse around the world is held every year on the 15th of June. Age Concern New Zealand wants to raise awareness for elder abuse during this week. You can find out more about World Elder Abuse Awareness Day here, or on the UN website.

Elder abuse and neglect research

To read more about New Zealand and international publications on elder abuse and neglect, check our research page here.  

Elder Abuse and Neglect Prevention services

If you or someone you know is experiencing abuse or neglect, Age Concern can help you. Age Concern Elder Abuse Services can be found across the country, with contacts to local support here.
If you cannot find a service close to you, please contact 0800 EA NOT OK (0800 32 668 65) or Age Concern on 0800 65 2 105.
If you or someone you know is in danger, please contact 111. 

Websites of interest

Below are a few links to other websites detailing a variety of information about 'Elder Abuse' and a brief synopsis of each site. Click on the links provided.

  • You can find more information about elder abuse and neglect on our services page here
  • Resources on elder abuse can be found on our Resources page
  • For more information on financial abuse, check the Banking Ombudsman website
  • You can find information on common money scams here