Left: A market vendor sells produce at Victoria Market in Port Victoria, Seychelles. Right: 64 years old, Christine Banlog, has been a market woman for 22 years. She is widowed, and raising her three grandchildren in Nyalla, Cameroon.
Photo:UN Women/Ryan Brown

2022: Combatting Elder Abuse

This year, World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD) coincides with two important events. The first is the start of the United Nations Decade of Healthy Ageing (2021-2030). This marks the beginning of ten years of concerted, catalytic and sustained collaboration with diverse stakeholders on improving the lives of older people, their families and their communities. The second is the 20th milestone of the Second World Assembly on Ageing and the fourth review and appraisal of the implementation of the Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing (MIPAA). These provide an opportunity to generate renewed momentum for international action to advance the ageing agenda.

MIPAA represents the first time Governments agreed to link questions of ageing to other frameworks for social and economic development and human rights. The 159 Member States who signed onto the MIPAA reaffirmed the commitment to spare no effort to protect human rights and fundamental freedoms, including the right to development.

This complementarity between MIPAA and a human rights framework can be easily shown in the area of elder abuse. MIPAA includes various references to elder abuse, including “Issue3: Neglect, Abuse and Violence,” which provides two objectives relating to the elimination of all forms of neglect, abuse and violence of older persons; as well as the creation of support services to address elder abuse. Both objectives include actions to review policies, enact laws and create awareness, information, training, and research initiatives. However, in the absence of an international standard on the rights of older persons, gaps between policy and practice, and the mobilization of necessary human and financial resources, as well as the uneven progress in the implementation of MIPAA continues. An international legal instrument for older persons would advance the implementation and accountability of MIPAA.


an elderly man is having a chess match with a younger man in a park

Combatting Elder Abuse: What’s next?

Five priorities for the Decade
16 June 2022 (time TBD)

An expert panel will present overall trends of violence against older persons, highlight gaps and challenges of implementing the objectives in Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing. Expert panelists will also present five priorities to combat violence against older persons in the Decade of Healthy Ageing (2021-2030).


Event details

Addressing Elder Abuse

Between 2019 and 2030, the number of persons aged 60 years or over is projected to grow by 38%, from 1 billion to 1.4 billion, globally outnumbering youth, and this increase will be the greatest and the most rapid in the developing world, and recognizing that greater attention needs to be paid to the specific challenges affecting older persons, including in the field of human rights.

Elder abuse is a problem that exists in both developing and developed countries yet is typically underreported globally. Prevalence rates or estimates exist only in selected developed countries — ranging from 1% to 10%. Although the extent of elder mistreatment is unknown, its social and moral significance is obvious. As such, it demands a global multifaceted response, one which focuses on protecting the rights of older persons.

Approaches to define, detect and address elder abuse need to be placed within a cultural context and considered along side culturally specific risk factors. For example, in some traditional societies, older widows are subjected to forced marriages while in others, isolated older women are accused of witchcraft. From a health and social perspectives, unless both primary health care and social service sectors are well equipped to identify and deal with the problem, elder abuse will continue to be underdiagnosed and overlooked.


Age doesn’t define you - Global Campaign to Combat Ageism - #AWorld4AllAges

More on the campaign from WHO

UN Global Issue: Agening

Did you know?

  • Around 1 in 6 people 60 years and older experienced some form of abuse in community settings during the past year.
  • Rates of elder abuse are high in institutions such as nursing homes and long-term care facilities, with 2 in 3 staff reporting that they have committed abuse in the past year.
  • Rates of elder abuse have increased during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Elder abuse can lead to serious physical injuries and long-term psychological consequences.
  • Elder abuse is predicted to increase as many countries are experiencing rapidly ageing populations.
  • The global population of people aged 60 years and older will more than double, from 900 million in 2015 to about 2 billion in 2050.

Source: WHO Fact Sheets

Create a world for all ages

Photo: ©UNFPA Vietnam Office

Ageism affects how we think, feel and act towards others and ourselves based on age. It imposes powerful barriers to the development of good policies and programmes for older and younger people, and has profound negative consequences on older adults’ health and well-being. Launched by World Health Organization, the Combatting Ageism Campaign aims to change the narrative around age and ageing and help create a world for all ages.

Elderly woman in field with sheep Rural Turkey.

Population ageing is poised to become one of the most significant social transformations of the twenty-first century, with implications for nearly all sectors of society, including labour and financial markets, the demand for goods and services, such as housing, transportation and social protection, as well as family structures and intergenerational ties.

ristobal Gabarron at the inauguration of his sculture Enlightened Universe during United Nations Day in Geneva in 2016.

The Decade of Healthy Ageing (2021-2030) is an opportunity to bring together governments, civil society, international agencies, professionals, academia, the media, and the private sector for ten years of concerted, catalytic and collaborative action to improve the lives of older people, their families, and the communities in which they live.

illustration of people with clock, calendar, to-do list and decorations

International days and weeks are occasions to educate the public on issues of concern, to mobilize political will and resources to address global problems, and to celebrate and reinforce achievements of humanity. The existence of international days predates the establishment of the United Nations, but the UN has embraced them as a powerful advocacy tool. We also mark other UN observances.