Elder Abuse, Ageism and Human Rights: an exploration

After qualifying as a social worker in 1981, Bridget Penhale specialised in clinical work with older people from 1983. She has specialised in elder abuse, adult safeguarding and social gerontology in an academic capacity since 1989. In this conversation, she explores the interlinks between ageism and elder abuse. 

“Because we have such high level of ageism across society – including older people themselves who maybe have internalised ageist ideas and perceptions about what it is to be old and what happens to people as they get older, in some respect that leads to a situation where it is permissible to act abusively because ‘old people don’t matter’.

Ageism is the master category sitting behind what then happens to older people. It legitimises that elder abuse happens. It also affects the capacity or abilities of individuals to recognise that what it is happening to older people is abusive.”


Read also:

Our thematic focus on ageism and abuse


Bridget Penhale is Researcher in Elder Abuse at the School of Health Sciences and Reader in Mental Health of Older People at the University of East Anglia, Norwich, UK. Bridget is a Board member of the International Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse (INPEA). She is recognised nationally in the UK for her work on adult safeguarding/protection and internationally for her work on elder abuse. In 2010 she received the International Rosalie Wolf Award for her work in the field of elder abuse research and practice.


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