U of T receives new funding from the Government of Canada to prevent elder abuse in Ontario
In collaboration with U of T and Elder Abuse Prevention Ontario, RISE will work to prevent the mistreatment of older persons in Canada.

On February 22, the Government of Canada announced that it will provide almost C$800,000 in funding to the University of Toronto (U of T) to address the mistreatment of older persons in Canada. U of T will implement the RISE Model—which stands for repair harm, inspire change, support connection, and empower choice—to prevent and respond to the mistreatment of elderly persons. 

RISE Collaborative has various locations across the US and Canada, including one upcoming site in Ontario that has partnered with U of T and Elder Abuse Prevention Ontario (EAPO) with funding from the Public Health Agency of Canada.

The World Health Organization defines elder abuse as “a single, or repeated act, or lack of appropriate action, occurring within any relationship where there is an expectation of trust which causes harm or distress to an older person.” 

RISE aims to change the relationship between the individual experiencing elder abuse and the person causing harm through the involvement of family and friends as well as formal support services. Its objective is to collect data on which kinds of strategies are efficient in preventing elderly person mistreatment and to determine how and where they can be most effectively applied.

Mistreatment of older persons takes many forms

Mistreatment can manifest in many forms, including financial exploitation, emotional or psychological abuse, physical abuse, sexual abuse, and neglect. According to a 2021 study by U of T Professor David Burnes and colleagues, financial abuse is the most common form of elderly mistreatment with a 10-year incidence rate of 8.5 per cent. 

Other factors, including race and poor health, can increase the risk of an elder experiencing abuse. Elders with poor health are more likely to experience all forms of mistreatment while older Black adults face a higher risk of experiencing financial abuse specifically. 

The rise of mistreatment of older persons 

The mistreatment experienced by elders is only one part of the problem. Burnes reports that elderly people who are abused rarely report it. Victims are often afraid of being sent to a long-term care facility, or of harming their relationship with an abusive family member.

The Honourable Ya’ara Saks, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions and Associate Minister of Health, told the Government of Canada that “mistreatment of older persons inflicts deep emotional wounds, and can lead to feelings of fear, shame, and isolation.” 

The consequences of mistreatment include “premature mortality, poor physical and mental health, diminished quality of life, and increased rates of emergency services use, hospitalization, and nursing home placement.”

The Government of Canada reports that cases of elder abuse will increase significantly over the next two decades. Meanwhile, EAPO predicts that the number of seniors over the age of 65 and above will more than double, surpassing four million by 2036—underscoring an urgent need to mitigate the risk of elder abuse in Canada. 

Burnes told the Government of Canada that “One in ten older adults living in the community across Canada experience some form of elder mistreatment each year, which translates to nearly 900,000 older adults who fall victim.” According to Burnes, RISE and its partnership with EAPO represents an important step toward addressing this gap. 

The implementation of RISE represents a significant step forward in addressing the issue of elder abuse in Ontario. With its comprehensive approach to applying evidence-based solutions, elder persons have a greater chance of receiving better support in the future. 


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