Although the first documents on older adult mistreatment started to appear in the 1970s [1], it was not until the early 2000s that this type of mistreatment was recognized internationally as a social and public health problem. In 1997, during a meeting of the International Association of Gerontology and Geriatrics in Australia, a group of researchers set up the International Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse. Thanks to this network, a World Elder Abuse Awareness Day is held on June 15 of each year. In Québec, it is called the “purple ribbon campaign.”

In 2002, the World Health Organization (WHO) proposed a definition of elder abuse which is still widely used, and the United Nations (UN) included the themes of “neglect, abuse, and violence” in the Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing1. Although this action plan is not binding for Member States, status reports related to it are presented regularly to the UN. 

The question of mistreatment of older adults was first broached in Québec during regional symposiums on violence in the late 1970s. The first study on the subject, by the Association québécoise de gérontologie, was published in the early1980s [3]. In 1988, the public health and social services network conducted the first exploratory study on the matter [4]. In 1989, the report Vieillir… en toute liberté, by the working committee on elder abuse set up by the Minister of Health and Social Services, pointed out the importance of having a comprehensive government policy in this area [5]. In 2010, Québec adopted the Governmental Action Plan to Counter Elder Abuse (hereinafter “AP-1”) [6]. This five-year plan, which was extended to 2017, proposed four structured actions2 and over 30 measures to improve existing practices. Thanks to the commitment of 13 government departments and bodies and the allocation of funding, a series of changes were made in knowledge, laws, and practices. In 2017, following an assessment of the implementation of AP-1 [7], public consultations and an inventory of needs, the government released the Governmental Action Plan to Counter Mistreatment of Older Adults 2017-2022 (hereinafter “AP-2”) to the public. It comprises 52 measures grouped under four orientations: prevent mistreatment and foster well-treatment, encourage early detection and appropriate interventions, promote and facilitate disclosure of situations of mistreatment, including situations of financial and material mistreatment, and develop knowledge and improve knowledge transfer [8].

From this brief history, we can see that initiatives to counter mistreatment of older adults have been taken for over 40 years now. However, a suitable structure to coordinate them was only introduced in 2010. The number of actions has increased since that time and mistreatment now encompasses a series of related themes, such as the fight against bullying, recognition of self-neglect, and promotion of well-treatment.

  1. This action plan includes the following two objectives: “elimination of all forms of neglect, abuse and violence of older persons” and “creation of support services to address elder abuse” [2].

  2. Awareness campaign, research chair, referral and help line, regional coordinators.