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


Relative to the United States and United Kingdom, Canadian research on the criminal victimization of the elderly is quite limited. Much of the research is driven by government agencies, such as Statistics Canada, through the annual UCR2 program4 and the General Social Survey, a national victimization survey conducted every five years. The UCR2 program yields details on crimes (i.e., incident-based) reported to the police and, in 2007, covered 153 police forces representing 94 percent of Canada's population.

Unlike the UCR2, the GSS includes unreported crime and was last completed in 2004. The inclusion of unreported crime and the fact it is only conducted every five years, make it difficult to compare findings from the GSS with those drawn from the most recent figures yielded by the UCR2. An additional difference between the two data sources is that the GSS yields valuable data on the prevalence of victimization; i.e., the percentage of seniors indicating that they have been victims of a crime over the previous 12 months. The UCR2 provides data on incidence only; specifically, the number of crime occurrences per 100,000 seniors.

When consulting other Canadian sources, we observe even greater difficulties in drawing generalizations across studies. The body of Canadian research on crimes against the elderly varies as to:

  1. The geographic area covered, as some studies are national and others are regional in scope.
  2. The behaviour examined, as some focus on abuse while others explore criminal behaviour only.
  3. The age range of the sample. Seniors have been viewed as anywhere from 55 to 65 years of age and over.
  4. Their time frames, with some studies looking at crime or abuse over the previous 12 months and others investigating victimization from the time an individual became a senior.

The considerable gaps in Canadian and international research and issues pertaining to the definition of elder abuse will be addressed in remaining sections of this report. These gaps and issues notwithstanding, the following conclusions can be drawn from the Canadian research conducted over the last two decades.