Disability Studies Quarterly
Fall 2005, Volume 25, No. 4
Copyright 2005 by the Society
for Disability Studies


Podnieks, E., Kosberg, J.I., & Lowenstein, A. (Eds.). Elder Abuse: Selected Papers from the Prague World Congress on Family Violence. Binghamton, New York: The Haworth Maltreatment & Trauma Press, 2003. 214 pages, ISBN 0-7890-2824-2, $29.95.

Reviewed by Cathy Thornton, Elmira College

The issue of elder abuse is an area of growing concern for today's society and will continue to grow as the population of older individuals increases due to longer life spans and improved health care. Elder Abuse: Selected Papers from the Prague World Congress on Family Violence is a collection of 10 papers designed to explore the topic of elder abuse from several different perspectives. The papers present elder abuse in different forms and at different levels of awareness. They also present the need for prevention, assessment, and intervention.

The collection is organized into eleven chapters, ten of which are individual papers originally presented June 21-26, 2003 at the World Congress on Family Violence in Prague, Czech Republic. The papers do not appear to be arranged in any particular order and address a range of subjects associated with elder abuse, including grandparents as custodians, diverse cultures, faith communities, multidisciplinary teams, and assessment documentation. The text is well written with the exception of the second paper, "The Elder Abuse of Custodial Grandparents: A Hidden Phenomenon," which was difficult to follow at times due to semantic errors.

The first two papers, "Grandparents Raising Grandchildren: The Risks of Caregiving" by Brownell, Berman, Nelson, and Fofana and "The Elder Abuse of Custodial Grandparents: A Hidden Phenomenon" by Kosberg and MacNeil, explore abuse of grandparents by their grandchildren. The role of the grandparents is atypical in that they are the custodians of their grandchildren. Together, the first two papers identify the act of abuse by grandchildren, and present the idea that the abuse is not readily acknowledged and addressed by the grandparents or by child welfare workers.

The lack of awareness of elder abuse by members of the clergy is another subject that is addressed in two of the papers, both by Elizabeth Podnieks and Sue Wilson: "Elder Abuse Awareness in Faith Communities: Findings from a Canadian Pilot Study" and "An Exploratory Study of Responses to Elder Abuse in Faith Communities." The role of the clergy is examined and includes findings to suggest that the religious communities feel they are not academically prepared to meet the needs of their older members pertaining to prevention of and intervention in elder abuse.

Diverse cultures pose another challenge for researchers with respect to elder abuse in that there is no definitive definition of elder abuse, as well as differences in the level of concern and awareness. This challenge is compounded by the lack of a cross-national research model, the development of which could lead to further knowledge used to focus on prevention and interventions.

A general theme that persists in the collection of papers is the lack of a universal definition of what constitutes elder abuse. Defining elder abuse would lead to the development of a comprehensive assessment tool, followed by a plan for prevention, and intervention. The need for further research is also discussed at length, along with the need for increased services for both prevention and intervention. The book's purpose is easily understood — increase the awareness of the existence of elder abuse, thereby facilitating prevention and intervention of the problem.

While the papers included in the collection all revolve around the issue of elder abuse, they all have the ability to stand on their own, without support from the other papers. Each individual paper offers information that is valuable, complete, and informative. They also offer valuable references at the end of each article.

This is a usable resource and is highly recommended as a tool to educate individuals working with elderly people. Previous knowledge of the topic would be useful although not necessary for understanding. The level of difficulty is appropriate for general readers, and undergraduates through professionals.