Increase in assaults against elder Americans

In the US, assaults against men aged between 60 and 69 have skyrocketed, leading the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to suggest the demographic is “particularly vulnerable to violence”.

In disturbing figures just released, CDC researchers reveal that while rates of assault and homicide against people in other age groups have decreased or remained stable over the past 15 years, violent acts committed against older men and women have increased.

Researchers led by the CDC’s JE Logan report that between 2002 and 2016, numbers of non-fatal assaults against men over 60 increased by 75%. Records for women cover a slightly shorter period – 2007 to 2016 – and show assaults increased by 35%.

In just three years, between 2013 and 2016, numbers of men aged between 60 and 69 killed by homicide jumped by 19%.

Older adults currently comprise 22% of the US population, a proportion predicted to rise to 28% by 2050. There is currently much attention focussed on reducing violence committed among young people, the researchers note, and in preventing intimate partner violence, but “violence directed against older adults has received less attention, despite the faster growth of this population than that of younger groups”.

“The estimated number of nonfatal assaults nearly doubled during this period, and the number could double again by 2030 if both the growth rates continue,” Logan and colleagues write.

Information on the reasons behind attacks on older Americans is sparse. However, investigations into the killings of people aged over 60 collected by researchers in 32 states indicated that the perpetrators in almost half the cases were partners, relatives or friends of the victims.

“These cases potentially meet CDC’s definition of elder abuse,” the researchers note.

The key finding of the CDC study was that violence against the elderly is an area that has been substantially overlooked, and that much more research is needed. It is essential, they write, “to understand why assault and homicide rates are highest among the youngest, and presumably healthiest, group of older adult men”.

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