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


A variety of information sources were consulted and analyzed in determining the nature and extent of elder abuse (especially crimes specifically targeting seniors), in exploring the existing Canadian literature on the subject, and in reconciling existing definitions of elder abuse (especially that of WHO) with the crimes committed against seniors.

The sources of information used in this report included:

  • Statistics Canada's Uniform Crime Reporting Survey (especially UCR2) and the 2004 General Social Survey (GSS), the most recent national crime victimization survey conducted in Canada3.
  • The Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics at Statistics Canada reports on crimes against seniors and on family violence in 2007 and 2008, respectively.
  • Ekos Research's 2007 national survey.
  • National studies conducted in the United States, United Kingdom, and the Netherlands.
  • Reports previously commissioned by the Department of Justice and other government agencies.
  • A review of the scholarly literature (e.g., Criminal Justice Abstracts, Criminal Justice Periodicals Index, National Criminal Justice Reference Service, Social Work Abstracts).

We sought to identify gaps in the research on elder abuse in a number of ways. We examined the extent to which the questions posed by this study could be answered completely and comprehensively by the existing data and literature. For example, do we have a complete understanding of the nature and extent of crimes that specifically target seniors? We also explored gaps in research by examining studies conducted in other countries, such as rigorous national surveys, that have yet to be undertaken in Canada. Furthermore, we examined the gaps that have been identified by previous Canadian and international reports and articles.

The final component of this project addressed the definitional issues in research. Specifically, the limitations of the WHO conception of elder abuse were discussed. This definition is very broad in some respects and narrow in others. While it overlaps with crime as defined in law, there are some aspects that are troubling from a legal perspective. The scholarly literature and government reports were once again examined in order to tackle the definitional issues that have hindered advances in research and policy on elder abuse.

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