Background: Awareness and experiences of elder abuse have been researched as separate entities; this study examined the relationship between awareness of elder abuse, disclosure of abuse, and reporting of abuse among people aged 65 years or older.
Methods: A national cross-sectional survey of a random sample of 2,012 community-dwelling older people was carried out in Ireland. People described their understanding of the term elder abuse followed by their experiences of mistreatment. Descriptive statistics and logistic regression were used with frequency, percentage, odds ratios (OR), and 95% confidence intervals (CI) presented.
Results: The prevalence of elder abuse, including stranger abuse, since 65 years of age was 5.9% (95% CI 4.6–7.3). Overall, 80% of the population demonstrated some understanding of the term elder abuse. Older people who experienced physical abuse (OR 5.39; 95% CI 2.31–12.5) and psychological abuse (OR 2.51; 95% CI 1.58–3.97) were significantly more likely than older people who had not experienced mistreatment to relate the term elder abuse to their personal experiences. There was no association between experiences of financial abuse or neglect and awareness of the term elder abuse.
Conclusions: There was a relatively high level of awareness of the term elder abuse; however, a substantial proportion of people could not readily associate abusive behaviors within their personal lives with elder abuse. Public information campaigns need to move beyond simple awareness rising to enable people to bridge the gap between a theoretical understanding of elder abuse and recognizing inappropriate behavior in their own circumstances.