When Abuse Tarnishes The Golden Years

domestic violence elderly

When Abuse Tarnishes The Golden Years

Abuse doesn’t discriminate against age — and an unsettling number of older Americans are in abusive relationships that either begin in or persist into later life.

No one deserves abuse, and no matter what your situation, there are ways to find help. It is never too late to report the violence and talk to someone about it.

Why Now?

Abuse can begin later in life or start earlier and continue into later years. There are many causes for late onset domestic violence, including stresses resulting from retirement, disability, shifting roles for family members and sexual changes. Older men and women are also more likely to experience domestic violence at this age if they enter a new relationship later in life.

What Does This Look Like?

In addition to the known symptoms of domestic abuse, frequent and more severe injuries, confusion and disassociation are characteristics of late onset domestic violence. Social workers, police and medical professionals find these elderly-specific indicators to be difficult to diagnose because they often occur in one form or another without the presence of domestic abuse.

Why Is It Underreported?

There are lots of reasons people don’t report abuse in their later years of life. Retirement and disability often render elderly individuals financially unstable and they may fear losing health care benefits or falling into poverty or homelessness. If they do rely on their partner for caretaking and support they may have fewer options after leaving.

Because of generational norms, some older women feel that speaking out about domestic violence would be “airing dirty laundry,” and prefer to keep their personal lives private. In addition, many individuals are anxious about leaving a partner late in life with the concern that they may spend the rest of their days alone.

How Can You Help Someone You Know?

Many domestic violence campaigns and services don’t address late onset domestic violence and instead focus mainly on people between 18 and 45 years old. This limits the availability of assistance older people. Fortunately, specific resources do exist. Adult Protective Services (APS) in all states serve abused older victims.

Do you know someone who may be experiencing abuse at the hand of their partner? Since there are unique reasons many older Americans don’t report abuse, speaking up if you notice red flags could be the support someone needs to begin to get help.

It’s never too late to reclaim your life, and we want to help. Call The Hotline 24/7 at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) to speak with an advocate about the abuse — whether it’s happening to you personally, or to someone you know. You can also click the “Chat Now” button at the top of this page to chat online from 7 a.m. to 2 a.m. Central time.

Further Resources

Comment section

0 replies
  1. I left home yesterday to save my life. Now what !
    I have my pets 2 shih-tuz dogs. No shelter will take them .
    I don’t know where to go. I have to leave the motel at 11 in the morning. I spent my money on the room.
    I am afraid but with no where to go I will have to go back.
    This is not suppose to be my life at 54.
    Please pray for me.

    1. Hi Vonda,

      Please feel free to call us to talk about the situation. We are here to help you find options and resources. We are available 24/7 at 1-800-799-7233.

      Take care,

      Hotline Advocate AS

  2. My husband it’s the mos educated, caring, adorable person with everyone…
    At home he it’s always busy working and full of stress …
    He has no time or interest on talking with me…
    When he gets up set if I bring that issue to him in a respectful way?
    His answer most likely will be insults or yelling at me…
    I already have to deal wit bipolar disorder, live away from family and children…
    He has all of his family near and ignores or even bother to understand my:
    Need for having him present or interested in my life or my emotional issues…
    He has turned in to Mr. not now, I don’t have time, we can not afford it etc…
    He does not live the present moment! He it’s working for tomorrow, for the future…
    I don’t know what to do any more…
    We, are together for 20 years now ! 8 were wonderful and the past 12 ?
    Very challenging for me ! occasionally he has even been “physical” on me …
    Very rarely now because I no longer seat still… and I defend myself…
    I am in another Country and have no home or money to move else where…
    I just want to be able to work things out and live in peace.
    I am not sure if I am still in love with him? I wish him the best and care for him but?
    I am the “bipolar one here and he its the one with 2 faces”
    I do take my medicines and go to the “shrink” but? I can not force him to deal with his anger issues.
    Which are all amid, directed at me…
    I do not tell my kids or family because they live far and there it is nothing that they can do.
    I stay quite, do not like to fight…
    But many times drink beer just to go to sleep fast and well…
    So ? I am hurting myself ! while he adores himself and take’s good care of him !
    Since I am not aggressive or problematic ? He even brings home my drinks …
    I no longer feel like going out of my home, and sometimes just think that he does not care about me…
    He say’s that he loves me, while he does not show it with actions…
    What should I do ?
    Thank you! and very kind regards

    1. Pia,

      Thank you so much for reaching out to our blog community. It sounds like a lot is going on and it is completely understandable to feel upset and confused when you are not feeling respected by your partner. You’ve described feeling really isolated which can be a tactic used by abusers to gain control in a relationship. I would encourage you to reach out to a domestic violence agency in your area. Check out hot peach pages to find your nearest domestic violence hotline.

      I hope they are able to find you that support.


      1. Thank you! So very much.
        It’s not an easy challenge, to abandon home and shelter…
        Also let know my kids and people far away that do care for me……..
        That I am not living the perfect life that they think I am…
        Shame ! It was come to my mind…
        Why did I gave up all I had to believe and follow this person?
        Not everything that shines it’s gold !
        I am not getting love and care from this person…
        So? I most find a way to ” love me and give love to myself”
        Yes, there it’s a lot going on !
        I am sad but will continue to search peace and serenity in my life…
        And a this moment? also outside help since when “one it’s emotional or hurt ”
        Can not see things clearly……
        Thank you for your help !
        Very kind regards,

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