Elder abuse is a serious reality for many older people living in Maine. It is happening in our cities and towns; it is occurring in our neighborhoods, to people we know and love.

Maine is the oldest state in the nation and getting older. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the median age in Maine is 43.5, the highest of any state.

Studies show that anywhere from 2 percent to 11 percent of older individuals are victims of elder abuse, although the National Research Council estimated that only 1 in 14 cases of elder abuse ever comes to the attention of authorities.

Abuse in later life can happen to any elder. It can be perpetrated against men and women, regardless of ethnicity, religion, race, sexual orientation, economic status or any other social classification.

The National Clearinghouse on Abuse in Later Life defines elder abuse as “physical, sexual or psychological abuse, neglect, abandonment and financial exploitation of an older person by another person or entity. Elder abuse can occur in any setting (e.g., home, community or facility) and can occur either in a relationship where there is an expectation of trust and/or when an older person is targeted based on age or disability.”

Inaccurate information about aging, victims, perpetrators and what elder abuse looks like may result in inaction by others. It is important that everyone is aware of what forms elder abuse can take.


Although physical abuse, like hitting or pushing, is one tactic used to gain control over the older individual, the other forms are just as wrong and damaging. In fact, it is rare that a trusted individual employs only one strategy to get what they want.

So sexual abuse may accompany physical abuse, and the victim may also be subjected to emotional abuse, including threats, yelling, belittling or downplaying the extent of the harm done. Financial exploitation is often part of the experience of abuse in later life, with perpetrators achieving this outcome via physical, sexual or emotional mistreatment.

Often the abuse is not recognized or acted upon by others because the perpetrator – whether it is an intimate partner or an adult child, family member or caregiver – does an effective job of deflecting accountability for the abuse or justifies their abusive behaviors by pointing to the older individual’s actions.

Because many of us have had challenging situations or incidents with elders in our life, we are more apt not to question what we see or to look further into the situation. Some people don’t think that what goes on in someone else’s home is their business – but violence against elders is everyone’s business.

Family Crisis Services is the local domestic-violence resource center for Cumberland County, providing advocacy and support to those affected by violence in trusted or intimate relationships. We also offer community and school-based education and training on ending abuse.

The agency is one of nine recipients nationally to have been awarded the Enhanced Training and Services to End Abuse in Later Life grant by the U.S. Department of Justice Office on Violence Against Women.


The Family Crisis Services Elder Program has planned a kickoff event for Wednesday at Husson University in Westbrook. Our partners include the Southern Maine Agency on Aging, the Portland Police Department and members of the Cumberland County Superior Court and District Attorney’s Office.

Portland Police Chief Michael Sauschuck will be welcoming the participants and offering the opening remarks. Trainers from the National Clearinghouse on Abuse in Later Life will present the content for the seminar.

This grant will build on the important work already being done to support the survivors of elder abuse by the Maine Department of Human Services’ Bureau of Elder and Adult Services, the Elder Abuse Institute of Maine, the Maine Coalition to End Domestic Violence resource centers, other social services providers and law enforcement departments.

The grant’s focus is to enhance services for older victims by strengthening our local coordinated community response and to organize training and cross-training for professionals on elder abuse, neglect and financial exploitation, including domestic violence. Ultimately, the goal of community collaboration is to enhance victim safety for those abused in later life.


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