Updated 13 June 2013

Types of elder abuse

Elder abuse is common and can take many forms. We discuss the different forms of abuse.


There are many forms of elder abuse. HEAL (Help Elder Abuse Line), an NGO assisting victims of elder abuse, lists the following:

Physical abuse: acts that cause injury or physical discomfort, e.g. slapping, hitting, shaking, pushing, use of any physical or chemical restraints, administering incorrect or excessive medication.

Psychological/emotional abuse: acts that inflict emotional or mental suffering, e.g. confinement, isolation, verbal abuse, shouting, ignoring, humiliation, intimidation.

Financial abuse/exploitation: misuse of funds and assets or obtaining property or funds without full consent, knowledge or under duress, e.g. extortion, coercion

Active or passive neglect: withholding or not providing the care and basic necessities required for physical and mental well being e.g. food, warmth, clothing, essential medication.

Sexual abuse: sexual behaviour towards a person without their full knowledge and / or consent, e.g. sexual assault, harassment.

Violation of human rights: the denial of fundamental rights - the right to freedom, security, accurate information and not to be subjected to cruel and inhuman or degrading treatment e.g. respect for dignity, personal privacy, freedom of thought, belief opinion, speech, expression and movement.

Systemic abuse: any abuse or violation of human rights suffered by an elderly person or group of elderly persons as a result of an action or inaction by a statutory body or the state.

Withcraft: Elderly black people, mainly women, are sometimes "identified" as witches by others in the community, and along with their hut they are set alight and burnt to death. It is reported that those "identified " as witches often have particularly wrinkled or darkened skins due to age, or are reclusive or independent and successful. It is also reported that a reason to rid an elderly person from the community might be motivated by the wish to obtain the elderly persons' property or possessions. Most reports regarding witchcraft emanate from the Northern Province.

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