Crime and Abuse Against Seniors:
A Review of the Research Literature With Special Reference to the Canadian Situation


The overall aim of this report was to provide a critical review of the scientific literature and data available on elder abuse, with a special emphasis on the Canadian situation.

More specifically, the objectives of the report were as follows:

  1. A review and discussion of Canadian data available on seniors as victims of crime. In this first component, research reports and data were summarized to compile the main sources of information and findings available in Canada. Issues addressed in this component of the project included: the incidence and prevalence of victimization; the reporting of crimes committed against seniors; the types of crimes committed against seniors; injuries sustained by elderly victims; the relationship between perpetrators and victims; victim characteristics; perpetrator characteristics; and the views held by seniors about their personal safety.
  2. A review and discussion of data or research available on seniors as targeted victims of crime in Canada and internationally. This section reviewed and discussed the factors that lead to those crimes to which seniors are especially vulnerable and information about the types of crime and perpetrators.
  3. A review and discussion of gaps in the available Canadian data and suggestions for research that could be undertaken to fill those gaps. With consideration of the two points above, the aim was to identify the gaps in our understanding of crimes against seniors and, in particular, those crimes to which seniors are especially exposed.
  4. A brief assessment of current definitions of elder abuse. Currently, the most widely adopted definition is that of the World Health Organization (WHO), which defines elder abuse as "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" (World Health Organization, 2009). Currently, some significant crimes targeting seniors do not appear to be included in WHO's definition. WHO's definition may also be excessively broad in certain respects. The concluding section of this report addresses some limitations of WHO's definition.