Image of an older bearded man who is sitting inside near a window

Common risk factors for experiencing abuse, neglect or mistreatment

Last updated: 15 February 2024

Common risk factors

Older people of all ages, ethnicity, environment and gender may be vulnerable or at risk of abuse. Here are some common factors that increase a person’s risk of experiencing abuse, neglect or mistreatment.

Isolation or being excluded from friends and social activities

Isolation limits an older person’s ability to participate in social activities and the natural oversight of others. This can leave an older person more vulnerable as there is no one to witness the abuse. The absence of social connections also leaves the older person with fewer people, or indeed no one, to whom they can share their concerns with.

Cultural and linguistic differences

People from diverse backgrounds may be influenced by their cultural or generational attitudes to gender and family responsibilities. They may also find responses and services may not be culturally acceptable or available in their preferred language. Some people may also be reluctant to seek help if they fear racism or discrimination.

 Financial pressures and exclusion

People with low financial literacy may find that they are excluded from key financial decision-making. Others may find that their limited income makes them more dependent upon others.

 Substance abuse problems

Alcohol, illicit drugs, or gambling may impact the older person or indeed the person who is the primary carer of an older person.

 Reduced health and capacity

Poor physical health and mental health, and cognitive impairment may increase reliance on others for support in daily living activities.

If you or someone you know needs help tackling elder abuse, start here, on for resources and a directory of service providers, or call the elder abuse helpline on 1800 353 374.


All comments are moderated. Please visit our terms of use for guidance on how to engage with our community.

More topics to discover on Compass