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Elder Mistreatment: Abuse, Neglect, and Exploitation in an Aging America
Older women who are white and live alone are considered to be the most likely victims of this abuse, perhaps more so than for any other form of elder abuse. The national NEAIS report found that 63 percent of the APS reports from 1996 involved victims who were women, which was somewhat more than their percentage of the elder population at that time (57.6 percent) (National Center on Elder Abuse, 1998). However, when relying on the reports of their sentinels, which were asserted to be more comprehensive in scope and to include unreported incidents, the NEAIS report concluded that 91.8 percent of the victims of financial abuse of the elderly were women, the highest percentage for any form of elder abuse (the next highest proportion was 83.2 percent for physical abuse) (National Center on Elder Abuse, 1998). The NEAIS report also found that the targets of financial abuse tended to be the oldest old, with 48 percent of the substantiated APS reports and 25.3 percent of the sentinel reports involving victims 80 years of age or older, even though they only comprised 19 percent of the total elderly population (National Center on Elder Abuse, 1998). Finally, the NEAIS report found that 83 percent of the substantiated APS reports and 92.4 percent of the sentinel reports of financial abuse involved white victims (whites comprised 84 percent of the national population of elders in 1996) (National Center on Elder Abuse, 1998).
Another report concluded from the scant amount of research available and the authors’ analysis of cases from Alabama that more than 60 percent of the victims of financial abuse of the elderly were likely to be elderly white females over the age of 70 (Coker and Little, 1997). A study of APS financial exploitation reports in an upstate New York county between 1989 and 1996 found that the elder victims were, on average, 78 years old, 68.7 percent of them were female, and 66.9 percent of them lived alone (Choi et al., 1999). A Canadian national survey found that 62 percent of elder victims of financial abuse were female, only 31 percent were married (the lowest percentage of any category of elder abuse—51 percent of elderly nonvictims were married), 54 percent were widowed, and 58 percent lived alone (the highest percentage of any category of elder abuse, with only 39 percent of elderly nonvictims living alone) (Podnieks, 1992). The widely cited profile of a target for financial abuse is generally a white woman over 75 who is living alone (Bernatz et al., 2001; Rush and Lank, 2000; Tueth, 2000).
A number of reasons are given for why most elder victims of financial abuse are women (Dessin, 2000). One is actuarial in nature; namely, women live longer than men and thus more women are available as targets for financial abuse of the elderly. Second, perpetrators may perceive women as weak and vulnerable in general. Third, many women have not handled their financial affairs because their husbands handled them. When their