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Elder mistreatment, ageism, and human rights

  • Simon Biggs (a1) and Irja Haapala (a2) (a3)

Background: Elder mistreatment, social ageism, and human rights are increasingly powerful discourses in positioning older people in society, yet the relationship between them has rarely been subjected to critical investigation. This perceived relationship will have implications for how mistreatment is understood and responded to.

Method: Critical gerontological approach based on narrative and textual analysis.

Results: Reports of public attitudes toward mistreatment suggest that it is thought to be more common than scientific evidence would suggest; however, reporting is much lower than prevalence. While the discourse over mistreatment has tended to focus on interpersonal relationships, ageism has emphasized social attitudes, and human rights have concentrated on relations between the state and the individual.

Conclusions: In this paper, a series of models have been examined which mark a tendency to restrict and then attempt to reintegrate individual, interpersonal, and social levels of analysis. It is concluded that a focus on the processes of transaction across boundaries rather than contents would facilitate both integrative modeling and deeper understanding of the qualities of abusive situations.

Corresponding author
Correspondence should be addressed to: Professor Simon Biggs, School of Social & Political Sciences, University of Melbourne, Victoria, 3010, Australia. Phone: +61-3-94831368; Fax: +61-3-9417 2691. Email:
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International Psychogeriatrics
  • ISSN: 1041-6102
  • EISSN: 1741-203X
  • URL: /core/journals/international-psychogeriatrics
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