Marie Beaulieu Ph. D. (Applied Human Sciences), M.Sc and B.Sc. (Criminology) is full professor at the Department of Service Social at Université de Sherbrooke and researcher at the CSSS-IUGS Research Center on Aging. She holds, since November 2010, the Research Chair on Mistreatment of Older Adults, funded by the Quebec government’s Department of the Family and Seniors. Social gerontologist, her main work representing 25 years of struggle in the field, addresses mistreatment, older adults’ security issues, ethics and aging as well as intervention in end of life situations. Marie Beaulieu is the North American representative at the INPEA (International Network for Prevention of Elder Abuse) and she serves on the Board of the CNPEA (Canadian Network for Prevention of Elder Abuses). She teaches and supervises in the Bachelor and Master’s degrees in Social Service as well as in the Ph.D. in Gerontology at Université de Sherbrooke, in addition to training practising practitioners and various groups of the public various audiences in Quebec, Canada and internationally.
An analysis of the role of global actors and networks in raising policy priority for elder abuse and neglect
Marie Beaulieu, University of Sherbrooke, Canada
Yongjie Yon, World Health Organization Regional Office for Europe, Denmark
Laura Campo Tena, Cambridge University, United Kingdom
Yusra Ribhi Shawar, John Hopkins University, United States
Christopher Mikton, World Health Organization Headquarters, Switzerland
Background and objectives
Globally, 1 in 6 older adults living in the community experienced elder abuse and neglect (EAN) in the past year leading to serious health and social consequences to the individuals, their families and the larger societies. Despite this burden, EAN appears to have a lower priority for global organizations and governments, especially when compared to other forms of interpersonal violence. The purpose for this research is to identify areas that are needed to improve the prioritization of EAN. This study draws on Shiffman’s (2009) policy scholarship and framework to understand how factors shape policy prioritization, and the effectiveness of global advocates and networks in doing so.
There are two data sources. Desk review of literature from seven databases and websites of key organizations in the past 21 years (i.e. since 2000) and the conduct of 26 key informant interviews with experts in the field of public health, ageing, interpersonal violence and EAN. These experts were selected from all six regions of the World Health Organization to provide their global perspectives on EAN prioritization. A thematic content analysis was conducted among the co-authors who independently drew codes from the policy framework in an iteratively process.
The analysis of the data sources indicated challenges in the area of global governance in EAN. There are few networks that specifically address EAN at the global level. Existing networks vary in their effectiveness to lead actions against EAN. Common challenges to prioritization of EAN include: (1) fragmented approach with mixed agreements and tensions in defining how EAN should be understood (e.g. expectation of trust), positioned and act upon (e.g. public health vs. human rights); (2) absence of alliances and disagreements about who the allies should be (e.g. violence against women, human rights, and broader violence prevention); (3) narrow networks comprising mainly of researchers from high-income countries with limited coordination in bringing the experiences and voices of practitioners (e.g. physicians and nurses), frontline professionals (e.g. social workers and police officers) as well as survivors of EAN and older adults; and (4) lack of mechanisms to consistently coordinate networks at the global and national levels. Moreover, the pervasive problem of ageism has been identified as a key area that needed to be addressed in order to prioritize EAN. Despite having high profile leaders advocating and speaking out against EAN, there is no consistent champions and leaders to mobilize actions. There are several key global resolutions, declarations and action plans relating to EAN, the broader violence prevention and ageing. These documents provide guiding institutions and networks with the mandate to lead initiatives against EAN, however, more investigations are needed to understand how these documents are being implemented.
Despite its prevalence and serious consequences, EAN is not a priority in the global political agendas. To improve prioritization, there is a strong need to strengthen coalition building, enhance coordination among networks, improve knowledge development and management as well as strengthen governance mechanisms for collective and sustained global action against EAN.