According to a new study out of the USC Davis School of Gerontology, elder abuse among low-income Latino communities goes largely unreported.
“Our study has revealed a much higher rate of elder abuse among the Latino community than had been previously thought,” said Marguerite DeLiema of USC Davis, lead author of the study in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. “This indicates that family solidarity within the Latino community does not necessarily protect older Latinos against elder abuse, as some research has suggested.”
The team’s research found 40 percent of the Latino elders interviewed reported being either abused or neglected in the last 12 months. However, only 1.5 percent said they alerted authorities.
About 10.7 percent of those interviewed said they had been physically abused a percent said they had been sexually abused in the last year. In addition, 16.7 percent of Latino elders said they had been exploited financially, and 11.7 percent said they were neglected by their caregivers. Elderly Latinos who had been in the United States longer were more likely to be abused or neglected, the study found.
“Recent studies suggest that more than one in seven older adults is a victim of some type of elder abuse each year. We hope that these findings will bring greater national attention to the troubling issue of noninstitutional elder abuse, particularly in areas with fewer community resources,” said senior author Kathleen Wilber, Mary Pickford Foundation Professor at USC Davis.
With limited English proficiency, ethnically segregated neighborhoods and cultural traditions that include reluctance to discuss problems outside the family, Latino elders are often overlooked in aging research, despite making up 6.7 percent of the U.S. population aged 65 and older. Across all demographic groups, more than 5 million cases of elder abuse are estimated to occur annually in the United States.
All interviews in the USC study were conducted in Spanish by local promotores: Spanish-speaking community health organizers who were recruited and trained to interview Latinos over the age of 65. The promotores went from door to door on randomly selected blocks in predominantly Latino neighborhoods.