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Measuring violence, abuse and neglect among older persons

An introductory tool

This Briefing Paper outlines an introductory method and tool to measure violence, abuse and neglect (VAN) in relation to older persons, with case studies from two lower-middle-income countries. Its broader aim is to contribute to growing dialogue on healthy ageing at a global level. Since the Toronto Declaration of 2002 – a Call to Action on the Global Prevention of Elder Abuse – the issue of VAN experienced by older persons has gradually become a more widely recognised issue. Seminal multicountry studies have been conducted by the World Health Organization (WHO) (2002, 2008) that acknowledge elder abuse as a growing issue in the fields of public health, as well as within the social and criminal justice sectors.

More specifically, based on direct lessons from testing the VAN tool in Moldova and the Philippines, the aim of this Briefing Paper is to provide a concrete departure point for the further development of methods and tools relating to the measurement of VAN. While the Toronto Declaration promotes ‘more research’ and the ‘education and dissemination of information’, there remains no universal metric or methodology for measuring VAN. This remains a critical gap of concern to both practitioners and policymakers working specifically on VAN issues with older persons. It is also a challenge for actors working in wider economic and social development spheres. For instance, without consistent standards and tools, the comparability of VAN against older persons within and across countries becomes highly problematic. In addition, with variable data categories available on the prevalence and causes of VAN, it becomes more challenging to compare and contrast data with sectors working on alternative forms of VAN – including violence against women and domestic violence. Finally, the VAN assessment tool below also seeks to provide a relatively low-cost and technically accessible platform for non-medical staff that can be of immediate use to actors working with restricted resources and capacities.

Consequently, the lessons learnt from the design and implementation of the VAN tool in two test scenarios will be of use to non-governmental organisations (NGOs), multilateral agencies, government bodies and academics seeking not only to develop globally standardised tools and associated guidelines but also to fine-tune concepts and definitions relating to definitions and types of VAN against older persons.