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Assaults against elderly people in US rise sharply: Study

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
New research suggests that elder abuse in the United States has spiked in the last two decades.

As the American population ages, abuse against the elderly in the United States has increased sharply, particularly among men, a new government report estimates.

Between 2007 and 2016, the rate of assaults among men 60 and older jumped 75 percent, while it rose 35 percent among women, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

According to the CDC report, family members commit most of the violence. The CDC said the findings highlight the need to strengthen violence prevention among older adults.

"We are still examining the circumstances that appear to be associated with the increase in violence against this age demographic," said lead researcher Joseph Logan, from the CDC's National Center for Injury Prevention and Control.

"We have identified that many of the assailants were known to the victims and in a position of trust," Logan noted.

There were also 19,059 homicides among adults 60 or older during this time. The high rates of assaults and homicides among men between 60 and 69 "suggest this group might be particularly vulnerable to violence," the researchers noted.

Some experts say the problem is even worse than the report suggests because many cases of abuse are not reported.

"These data underestimate the extent of elder abuse in America," said Dr. Ronan Factora, chair of the Special Interest Group on Elder Abuse and Mistreatment at the American Geriatrics Society.

"We probably underestimate the amount of physical violence, because this study only used records from emergency departments," he said. "This is really a small fraction that represents a larger problem that has been growing," he added.

Factora said that much of the abuse among people who are physically or mentally impaired is perpetrated by caregivers who are stressed out by the demands of caring for a loved one.

Experts also say that child abuse causes a more intense reaction, yet elder abuse may not stir the same emotion.

"There's not enough attention paid to victimization of older adults," said Dr. XinQi Dong, a professor at Rutgers University.

"It's an understudied, underfunded, underappreciated topic that affects the aging population, and society really needs to pay attention," he added.

The CDC report highlights the fact that older adults account for an increasing proportion of the US society. In 2017, people over the age of 60 made up 22 percent of the US population, and this percentage is expected to reach 28 percent by 2050, according to the CDC.

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