Understanding ‘Elder Abuse and Neglect’: A Critique of Assumptions Underpinning Responses to the Mistreatment and Neglect of Older People

Joan Harbison
Stephen Coughlan
Marie Beaulieu
Jeff Karabanow
Sheila Wildeman, Dalhousie University Schulich School of Law
Madine Vanderplaat
Ezra Wexler

From the Selected Works of Sheila Wildeman.


This article provides an overview of the ways in which the mistreatment and neglect of older people have come to be understood as a social problem, one which is underpinned by a variety of substantive and theoretical assumptions. It connects the process of conceptualizing elder abuse and neglect to political-economic and social evolution. The authors draw on a review of the literature, government sources, interest group websites, and their own research to provide a critical commentary illustrating how these understandings have become manifest in legislation, policies, and programs pertaining to "elder abuse and neglect" in Canada. Suggestions are provided for changes in direction for policies, programs, and research.