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Elder abuse focus of lecture series

September 15, 2011

Elder abuse is often familial, underreported, rarely discussed, and on the rise according to an ASU professor and veteran nursing home social worker.

Robin P. Bonifas will present “Elder Abuse in our Society” at 6:30 p.m. Sept. 22 at the Nursing and Health Innovation Building Two, 550 N. Third St., Phoenix, Innovation Auditorium, room 110.

The lecture is part of the fall 2011 Humanities Lecure Series and is hosted by ASU’s School of Letters and Sciences.

The lecture is open to the general public and is free.

“As our society’s seniors are living longer, we are seeing a rise of mistreatment directed toward them; this type of exploitation comes in many forms and from the very people and groups who are supposed to be caring for them,” said Mirna Lattouf, ASU humanities professor and series organizer. “Publicly discussing this topic and clarifying what it entails is the first step to awareness of the abuse, bullying and neglect of the elderly. This is also an extremely important issue for our society to expose and address a healthier future for us all.” 

The School of Letters and Sciences provides students across ASU with the knowledge and skills to comprehend and effectively engage the changing world of the 21st century at local, national and global levels. Theory, creativity and applied learning are integrated as students build entrepreneurial opportunities both inside the university and in their communities.
Bonifas, an assistant professor at ASU’s School of Social Work, says elder abuse takes on many forms – physical, emotional, financial, neglect – and is most often perpetrated by family members.

“Many people often think that elder abuse takes place primarily in nursing homes or other institutions, but the reality is that a majority of the cases occur in a home where a member of the family is the abuser,” Bonifas said. “The idea that a son or daughter is abusing a parent is hard to take and as a society, we often don’t like to discuss or broach this topic.”

Bonifas said a key national study conducted in 2003 shows that close to two million elderly adults have been injured, mistreated, neglected or exploited and that only 1 in every 14 incidents are reported. She added that 89 percent occur in domestic situations and that 67 percent of the victims are women. However, the abusers tend to be split almost evenly among men and women.

“Most of these crimes go unreported for fear of escalation. Many times victims feel guilty and blame themselves,” Bonifas said. “It’s not an uplifting topic, but I openly share this information so that the public can recognize the signs of elder abuse and what to do when they suspect it is happening.”

Bonifas said the nation’s lackluster economy is also playing a role in elder abuse, adding an additional stress to a complex situation.

“Abuse rates do tend to go up as the economy deteriorates,” Bonifas said. “It’s a symptom, but it does exacerbate the problem and makes it worse.”

The lecture series continues next month with Madelaine Adelman’s presentation of “Bullying and Bias Against the LGBT Community,” which takes place at 6:30 p.m., Oct. 13, at the Nursing and Health Innovation Building Two, 550 N. Third St., Phoenix, Innovation Auditorium, room 110.

For directions, visit For parking information, visit For more information, call Mirna Lattouf, series lecture organizer, at (602) 496-0638.