In recognition of World Elder Abuse Awareness Day 2022, ECCV is pleased to release our literature review synthesising existing research on elder abuse against people from migrant and refugee backgrounds. Building on our work as part of the Raising Awareness of Elder Abuse project, the literature review aims to promote a better understanding of an issue that, according to the Australian Institute of Family Studies (AIFS), affects an estimated 14.8% of older Australians.

The findings of the literature review suggest that people from migrant and refugee backgrounds experience multiple and unique forms of disadvantage that place them at greater risk of elder abuse. Ageism is a known driver of elder abuse, contributing to the neglect of older people across all societies. However, some cultural norms and beliefs can increase the risk of elder abuse, as they shape perceptions of what constitutes abuse, and whether it is tolerated. Vulnerability to elder abuse is also influenced by other systemic factors, such as unemployment, poverty, and inadequate welfare systems.

The literature review also collated recent research that points to how these vulnerabilities may have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, due to increased social isolation, financial stress, and related mental health impacts on older people, their family members, and carers. More generally, the risk factors associated with elder abuse include gender, dependence on a trusted person, immigration status, limited English language proficiency, and living with a cognitive impairment.

Together, the risk factors and drivers of elder abuse in migrant and refugee communities contribute to barriers to reporting the abuse, as it is highly stigmatised, often unrecognised, and can be difficult to report to mainstream services that do not offer culturally responsive or appropriate care. The literature review scopes current and emerging prevention and intervention strategies, and suggests directions for further research to address gaps in our knowledge of elder abuse, and improve our ability to address it.