Q: Does domestic violence look different among seniors?

A: Domestic violence among the aging population affects people of all ethnic, cultural, racial, economic and religious backgrounds.

Domestic violence in later life occurs when a person uses power or control to inflict physical, sexual, emotional or financial harm to an older person with whom they have an ongoing relationship — both female and male.

Typically, abusers will use a pattern of coercive tactics such as isolation, intimidation, threats, manipulation and physical harm to gain and maintain control over their victims.

An abuser may dictate where the victim can go, how they spend their money and even who they can see.

According to the National Sheriff’s Association, some experts view late life domestic violence as a subset of the larger elder abuse problem, which is characterized by many of the same behaviors.

The key distinguishing factor for domestic abuse is that the abuser is typically a partner or spouse.

Older victims of domestic violence can face unique obstacles in getting the help they need.

Services to aid domestic abuse victims are generally not designed to meet the needs of seniors, who may be isolated by their abuser.

A multidisciplinary approach including law enforcement, elder care attorneys and health care professionals provide the greatest chance for assistance to the victim.

Ending a relationship with an abusive spouse or partner can be more difficult for an older adult.

Some victims opt to stay with their abuser for religious, cultural or financial reasons. Generational values may be involved.

Many don’t want the relationship to end, just the abuse. Others have given up hope after years of abuse and unsuccessful past attempts at escape.

To make matters more difficult, older adults are often uncomfortable talking about personal and private matters with strangers.

What can we do to help the victim?

First, take time to truly listen. Respect their values and choices, whether you agree with them or not.

Offer compassion and acknowledge how difficult it is for them. Seek solutions to end their isolation.

Let the victim know that help is available and provide them with the support and assistance they need to get out of their situation.

If you are in danger from domestic abuse and need law enforcement to respond, call 911.

To talk to someone confidentially for support and information, call the Florida Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-500-1119.

They can point you to resources for creating a safety plan, obtaining legal assistance, emergency shelters, crisis intervention and more.

Because you deserve better.


One Senior Place is a marketplace for resources and provider of information, advice, care and on-site services for seniors and their families. Questions for this column are answered by professionals in nursing, social work, care management and in-home care. Send questions to, call 321-751-6771 or visit One Senior Place, The Experts in Aging.

Lisa Conway is a Registered Nurse and a Certified Care Manager for Senior Partner Care Services, Viera.