Elder mistreatment, often understood in the context of abuse and neglect, is a growing concern for the health and wellbeing of seniors and their families. A 2015 Canadian prevalence study by the National Initiative for the Care of the Elderly (NICE) found that seniors who are mistreated are more likely to talk to peers, and not clinicians, police or family. However, a lack of knowledge, access to resources, and community stigma may limit seniors’ abilities to address mistreatment.
This study evaluated the impact on knowledge, attitudes, and behaviours of having seniors deliver workshops on mistreatment to other seniors. A Seniors Advisory Committee developed content for sixteen workshops. Senior facilitators then delivered these workshops about mistreatment in sixteen cities across the province of Ontario. Participants completed pre/post-surveys assessing changes in their knowledge, attitudes, and behaviours towards the topic of elder mistreatment. The underlying tenet is seniors helping their senior friends (peers) to negotiate the elder mistreatment system.
Results indicate that workshops effectively increased awareness of mistreatment issues among participants, on average, by 37.32%. Participants experienced a 43.98% increase in their perceived preparation to provide information to an older adult asking about mistreatment. Barriers to help-seeking among seniors with knowledge of mistreatment include finding trustworthy sources and a lack of legal protection. Prior to the training, healthcare providers were the main sources of information for participants (57.75%); depending on the severity of the situation, 60.43% of participants indicated eventually reporting to police, who are not the preferred source of information.
Conclusions and Implications
Senior-led workshops about mistreatment appear to be effective for increasing knowledge and encouraging disclosure and help-seeking behaviours. Results support prevention models that empower seniors to educate other seniors on issues around mistreatment.