While women experience violence across their lifespan, older women are often forgotten or overlooked in primary prevention work.
With an increasing proportion of Australia’s population aged 65 and over, the experiences of older women must be considered if we are to end violence against all women.
Understand the issues
Current data shows that older women are more likely than older men to be victims of both intergenerational and intimate partner violence. Perpetrators of intergenerational violence are more likely to be men.
Such violence includes family violence perpetrated by a partner over a long period of time and financial abuse and control perpetrated by an adult child.
Emerging evidence suggests that in the case of violence experienced by older women, ageism intersects with gender inequality to drive violence.
Older women face particular forms of gender inequality, the impacts of which often accumulate over a lifetime. Ageing is a gendered experience and it is important to recognise how older women face both sexist and ageist norms, practices and structures.
This includes the impact across the life span of multiple unpaid caring roles and limited control of finances and decision-making, as well as social norms and attitudes that render older women ‘invisible’ across key settings such as the media, public and private sector decision-making positions and the health and community service sector.
Older women are not a homogenous group and their experiences of gender inequality and ageism intersect with other forms of disadvantage and discrimination.
Things you can do
- Centre the voices of older women in your work, including as experts, mentors and leaders.
- Reflect on your own individual attitudes and unconscious biases regarding gender and ageing, including unpacking positive or negative associations with ageing, reflecting on the language you use to describe older people, and your beliefs around older people’s relationships and sexuality.
- Ensure your organisational policies, procedures and practices promote gender equality for all women, including identifying barriers to older people accessing your services, ensuring older women are visible and represented in your organisation’s promotional materials and campaigns, and that your marketing strategy includes specific tactics to connect with older women.
- Develop and deliver primary prevention activities tailored to older women and their experiences of violence, for instance intergenerational activities, financial literacy for older women, campaigns engaging older men, and activities that challenge internalised ageism across the lifespan.
- Apply an intersectional approach to your work with older women, recognising how intersecting forms of discrimination and disadvantage shape older women’s lives.
- Ensure all primary prevention activities are accessible, including translations and appropriate formats for people with dementia and other disabilities.
Resources about preventing violence against older women
- A resource to build knowledge about preventing violence against older women
An Our Watch and Seniors Rights Victoria resource for practitioners seeking to build their knowledge and practice on preventing violence against older women. It presents a snapshot of findings from the Intimate Partner Violence Against Older Women Project.
A website to help people understand elder abuse in Australia
A website to support people to understand, prevent and respond to elder abuse in Australia. The site is an initiative of Elder Abuse Action Australia and funded by the Attorney-General’s Department.
- A literature review on the prevention of elder abuse
A literature review on preventing elder abuse produced for the South Melbourne Primary Care Partnership Elder Abuse Network.
A study into the nature of elder abuse in Australia
An Australian Institute of Family Studies research project commissioned by the Australian Government Attorney-General’s Department to study the nature of elder abuse and the extent to which it occurs in Australia’s population aged 65 and over.