Violence impacts older women too

01 Dec 2023

Older women are not always top of mind when we consider violence against women. Violence against older women is driven by gender inequality and ageism. Older women are more likely than men to be victims of intimate partner violence, other forms of family violence, violence from children and intergenerational violence.

Older women face particular forms of gender inequality throughout their lifetime. Examples include unpaid caring roles, low rates of pay, lack of superannuation, limited control of finances or decision making. Additionally, we don’t see older women  in media, government and business. Violence against older women is often ignored or overlooked because of their invisibility.

Our work on older women and homelessness indicates that domestic or family violence is a causal factor for  homelessness. Lack of housing options can force women to either stay in a violent relationship or become homeless. Investing in housing that is affordable and appropriate for the needs of older women is paramount.

OurWatch offers the following actions that can help prevent violence against older women:

  • Centre the voices of older women in your work, including as experts, mentors and leaders.
  • Reflect on your own individual attitudes and unconscious biases regarding gender and ageing, including reflecting on positive or negative associations with ageing, the language you use to describe older people, and your beliefs about older people’s relationships and sexuality.
  • Ensure your organisational policies, procedures and practices promote gender equality for all women, identify barriers to older people accessing your services, ensure older women are visible and represented in your organisation’s promotional materials and campaigns, and that your marketing strategy includes specific tactics to connect with older women.
  • Develop and deliver primary prevention activities tailored to older women and their experiences of violence. For example, financial literacy for older women, campaigns engaging older men and activities that challenge internalised ageism.
  • Apply an intersectional approach to your work with older women, recognising how intersecting forms of discrimination and oppression shape older women’s lives.
  • Ensure all primary prevention activities are accessible, including translations and appropriate formats for people with dementia and other disabilities.

All of us have a role to play in addressing violence against older women.