U. NOTTINGHAM (UK)—Because most domestic violence surveys tend to focus on younger women, older women who suffer or have suffered domestic abuse are historically a silent section of society.

A new year-long University of Nottingham study finds that more needs to be done to identify, support, and protect these victims by giving them a voice, and breaking the taboo surrounding the problem.

Researchers carried out in depth interviews with a sample of 16 women in the East Midlands area between the ages of 59 and 84.

All experienced abusive behaviour from husbands or partners, and have experienced adverse effects on mental health and physical well-being.

Details of the study are published in the journal Nursing Older People.

The long term consequences of physical abuse in older age was identified as a particular issue. Others had suffered long term psychological effects—including feelings of low self-esteem—both at the time of the abuse and in later life.

A generational reluctance to seek help because of embarrassment and perceived shame was also identified by the survey.

“This was a small scale study however the findings highlight the significant effect of domestic abuse on the immediate and long term physical and mental health of older women,” says Julie McGarry, associate professor and director of graduate entry nursing.

“Older women who have experienced abuse have identified particular health and support needs and the services that are currently available may not be appropriate to address these.

“Raising awareness among nurses and the wider health community is an essential part of addressing this gap.”
Current services provided by the healthcare industry are not sufficiently tailored to meet the needs of older women, the survey says.

Healthcare professionals such as district nurses are well-placed to spot cases of abuse among older patients but in the past have lacked the awareness or training to handle the suspicion.

The researchers worked on the project with help from Age Concern and Women’s Aid. It was funded by The Burdett Trust for Nurses, an independent charity which supports nursing’s contribution to healthcare.

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