Elder abuse is defined as "a single, or repeated act, or lack of appropriate action, occurring within any relationship where there is an expectation of trust, which causes harm or distress to an older person" (Adopted from the World Health Organisation Toronto Declaration on the Global Prevention of Elder Abuse, 2002).
This definition is the basis for working with older people about elder abuse and neglect. However, when defining elder abuse, it is also important to take into consideration each cultural context of what constitutes abuse. Meanings of abuse may include disrespect, dishonour, lack of esteem shown to older people/kaumātua or ignoring the needs of older people. It is important to keep in mind the impact abuse has on the older person when determining whether elder abuse has occurred.