For Immediate Release
Contact: Media Relations, (202) 777-2509

Epidemic of Physical and Emotional Abuse of the Elderly Focus of New APHA Book

Elder Abuse: A Public Health Perspective

Editors: Randal W. Summers and Allan M. Hoffman


Washington, D.C., August 14, 2006 – As the number of Americans ages 65and older soars, as many as 2.5 million elderly people in the nation are the victims of some form of physical or emotional abuse and neglect each year.

Elder abuse has been called America’s “hidden” social problem, yet the extent and repercussions of this epidemic are growing and are explored in Elder Abuse: A Public Health Perspective, a new book published by the American Public Health Association (APHA). The book’s editors, Randal W. Summers, PhD, MS, and Allan M. Hoffman, EdD, CHES, MA, address the public health issue of elder mistreatment, from physical harm to financial abuse and neglect, in community and residential care settings as the number of people ages 65 and older expands to beyond 70 million by 2030, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

The book’s co-editors are both established experts in issues surrounding violence. Summers, a clinical psychologist and organizational development consultant based in San Francisco, has served as adjunct faculty member with the Center for the Prevention of Community Violence in Iowa and has authored several books on violence. Hoffman, vice president for academic affairs at Hartnell College in Salinas, Calif., is a nationally recognized expert on issues associated with violence and violence prevention.

Elder Abuse: A Public Health Perspective identifies key barriers to understanding and addressing elder mistreatment, including wildly varying definitions of elder abuse, a shortage of reliable data on its frequency, a lack of consensus about causes and effective preventive measures, a national policy void and lack of funds for both research and implementation of interventions.

Ninety percent of the people who commit elder abuse are known to the elderly victims, Summers said. In the majority of cases, the perpetrators of abuse are the adult children of the victims. In institutional settings, because of statutory reporting requirements and other government regulations, elder abuse is less common. Yet state inspection reports reveal that elder abuse does exist in institutional settings, including sexual abuse inflicted by other residents or staff.

According to the 2004 Survey of State Adult Protective Services, more than 565,000 reports of suspected elder and vulnerable adult abuse cases were reported to protective services agencies in 2003 – a 20 percent increase in reports of abuse and neglect and a 16 percent jump in substantiated cases over the 2000 survey.

In the book’s preface, John C. Rother, director of policy and strategy for the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), said the volume addresses key issues facing older people and the nation at large.

“Elder abuse is a public health problem as well as a criminal justice issue – it is an epidemic that affects the community as a whole,” Rother wrote. “I second the call by Summers and Hoffman to foster collaborative efforts, particularly with the criminal and civil justice systems, and to enhance public awareness of elder abuse.”

Ordering information: Published by the American Public Health Association, 2006, ISBN: 0-87553-050-8, 179 pages (softcover), cost is $28.95 ($20.25 for APHA members), plus shipping and handling. To order, call toll free (888) 320-APHA; fax (888) 361-APHA; e-mail or visit APHA’s Web site:

Please send your request for a review copy on letterhead to APHA Publications Marketing, 800 I Street, NW, Washington, D.C. 20001-3710, or fax to (202) 777-2531.


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The American Public Health Association is the oldest organization of public health professionals in the world and the foremost publisher of public health-related books and periodicals promoting high scientific standards, action programs and public policy for good health. More information is available at