Victimization of the Elderly

James H. Noonan, Federal Bureau of Investigation
James A. Woods, Federal Bureau of Investigation

As the proportion of elderly people in the Nation increases, the topic of elderly victimization will gain importance. Much of the literature focuses on both physical and psychological elderly abuse and ignores property or fradulent offenses. This literature also tends to focus on case reports or surveys and not on crimes reported to law enforcement. Studies often examine reports or interviews targeting elder care facilities or caregivers and not directly from victims.

Many of these studies only address crime that occurs in residential settings. According to a BJS study published in March of 1994 only 25% of violent crimes against elderly victims occurred in a residential setting, showing that these studies fail to address approximately 75% of the victimization against the elderly. Confusion is further generated in the elder abuse literature because the definition of abuse and victimization varies with no consensus as to what activities are considered abusive.

However, we can assume that if a report is made to the police then it is obvious that an abusive situation occurs. While other studies struggle with survey or case study approaches, by using data from the Federal Bureau of Investigation Uniform Crime Reporting Program, the Bureau of the Census, and the National Center for Health Statistics, we have the opportunity to tap the census of crime reports, combine physical and property victimization into one study, and verify the nature victimization, including those that occur on the street. This study will examine both domestic crime reports and those involving non-domestic victim-offender relations.

By conducting survival analysis and logistical regressions, we aim to gain an understanding of elderly victimization as reported to police, verify or refute the belief that crime against the elderly is primarily domestic, determine the probability of elderly victimization for various types of crimes and criminal characteristics, and compare elderly victimization characteristics (location, weapon type, and others) to other age groups.

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Updated 05/20/2006