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Saturday, October 8, 2011


     Research indicates that in comparison to middle aged adults, young adults exhibit higher levels of ageist attitudes towards older persons and that elder abuse is increasing. This study examined proclivity of elder abuse by young adults enrolled at the post-secondary level.  A total of 206 university students completed questionnaires on attitudes toward older persons and their proclivity to elder abuse. Results indicated that student attitudes are correlated with elder abuse. In addition, proclivity to psychological abuse was found to be significantly higher than physical abuse.
         A convenience sample from a research pool was used.   Participation was voluntary and respondents received course credits.  Informed consent was obtained from participants.  Young adults were defined as 18 to 30 and older persons as 65 years and older. A total of 206 (64 males and 142 females) respondents participated in the study. Most participants attained at least some university level of education. The majority of respondents (66.5%) came from areas with a sizable proportion of older persons living in their communities.
. The results supported the hypothesis that ageism based on stereotypes is more common than avoidance or affective aspect of ageist attitudes. They also indicated that the overall proclivity rate towards elder abuse is 32.1% whereby respondents indicated that they would engage in psychologically abusive behaviours toward an older person provided that there were no consequences to their actions.
The most frequent types of psychological abuse came from minor subscales where a majority of respondents reported that they would stomp out of a room during a disagreement with older people. Under the same condition, only 2.4% of respondents reported that they would endorse physically abusive behaviours towards older persons such as slapping and pushing them.
Psychological abuse has consistently emerged as the most prevalent form of elder abuse in both proclivity and the prevalence estimates. Such findings may be due to the relative lack of sanctions placed on minor psychological aggression (i.e. verbal) compared to other forms of abuse. Although psychological abuse does not cause any visible harm or injury, abuse such as verbal insults, patronizing speech and threats can damage self-esteem resulting in more damaging impacts than physical abuse.
          The present findings on proclivity rates and previous research on prevalence rates to elder abuse indicate the increasing vulnerability of older adults to abusive behaviours.  Also found were specific relationships between the attitudes of young adults enrolled in a post-secondary institution and the likelihood of endorsing abusive behaviours towards older persons.
      Today, the younger generation needs to prepare for the gap between the generations and learn to deal with a multitude of aging issues as they grow older and take on responsibility for the caring of older members of society. Therefore the information obtained from this study has significant research, practical, and policy implications. Resources should be allocated to existing services in order to raise awareness of the increasing vulnerability of our aging population and to encourage intergenerational dialogue among older and younger adults. 

[1] Yongjie Yon BAA, MA, Larry Anderson B.Sc., MSc., Ph.D, Jocelyn Lymburner Ph.D, John Marasigan BA, M.Ed, MBA, PhD , Robert Savage, BGS, MA (c), Michael Campo BSc, MA , Rose McCloskey RN, PhD, GNC(c), Sue Ann Mandville-Anstey BN., MN., PhD (c)  

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