Elder Abuse

Elder Abuse is a contemporary issue that, given the projected demographics, is expected to intensify over the coming years. By the year 2031, one in four people living in Ottawa will be over 65 years old, with the largest cohort of this demographic being aged between 79 and 84 years.

The Elder Abuse Section is staffed by specialized police officers who investigate all allegations of elder abuse (including vulnerable adults who are 18 years and over) where there is a relationship of trust/dependence between the victim and their abuser (cases of domestic violence are investigated by the Partner Assault Section). A vulnerable adult is any adult person who depends on others to meet everyday needs because he/she has a mental illness or developmental disability or requires long term or indefinite care due to age or medical condition. The Elder Abuse Section also works closely with front line workers to educate them and the public to help raise awareness of elder abuse and support for seniors within the City of Ottawa.

The Elder Abuse Section also works in partnership with the Ottawa Police Victim Support Unit (VSU) who provide information, crisis counseling and resources to vulnerable persons and victims of elder abuse. The VSU is staffed by crisis counselors who also triage the Ottawa Police Elder Abuse Information Line (613-236-1222, ext. 2400). The Elder Abuse Information Line is a non-emergency information line it is not managed by a police officer, but does provide support and information on available resources for victims of elder abuse as well as guidance on how to file a complaint of abuse against a vulnerable or elderly person to police.

The Elder Abuse Information Line is not a reporting line. For emergencies where the safety of a senior is in imminent risk, call 9-1-1.

The VSU can be reached at 613-236-1222, ext. 2223. If anonymity is a concern please contact Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477. If you have an emergency situation, call 9-1-1. Also, Police have access to language services 24/7 and the Victim Crisis Unit, as well as other community partners have access to numerous resources that can assist members of marginalized communities.

Download our Elder Abuse information pamphlet:

What is Elder Abuse?
Elder abuse is any act or gesture that harms or threatens to harm an older person (65 or older). It includes physical, sexual, financial, and psychological abuse, as well as neglect.
Why does Elder Abuse happen?

Elder abuse is the result of an individual having power and/or control over a senior, and the individual uses such power for their own interests.

Abusers are often family members who are dependant on the senior for money or shelter. Abusers may have financial or addiction issues, experience chronic unemployment, and may possibly have mental health problems.

Most victims are mentally competent and capable of making decisions on their own. 

What are the different types of abuse?

Physical abuse

Physical abuse (including sexual assault) is any act of violence causing or intending to cause bodily harm or physical discomfort.

Signs to look for - unexplained injuries, unusual bruising and/or doctor shopping

Psychological/Emotional abuse

Psychological/Emotional abuse is any action or comment instilling fear, emotional anguish or that diminishes self-esteem or dignity.

Signs to look for - fear of certain individuals, abuser speaking for the senior or not giving the senior privacy when company visits

Financial abuse

Financial abuse is any theft or exploitation of an individual's money, property or assets. It should be noted that, unless there is a relationship of trust/dependency between the victim and the abuser, all frauds and scams against seniors are investigated by the Ottawa Police Fraud Section.

Signs to look for- overdue bills, unusual banking activity, mail missing, and seniors standard of living not in keeping with income or assets


Neglect, either intentional or unintentional, is a lack of attention resulting in inadequate supervision and failure to provide the basic and essential needs required.

Signs to look for - unhealthy living conditions and unkempt appearance.

Why is Elder Abuse so rarely reported?

Victims are often...

  • Afraid of repercussion
  • Dependant on abuser
  • Afraid of institutionalization
  • Feeling guilty or somehow at fault
  • Feeling as if police cannot help
  • Held back by cultural/ethnic values or beliefs

Family, friends, and service providers...

  • Do not recognize the signs of abuse
  • Do not know who to go to
  • Do not want to get involved
  • Have been asked not to report
  • Are afraid of repercussion
  • Feel there is a confidentiality issue

Cultural Factors

  • Ottawa's senior population is far from homogeneous

  • Immigrants aged 65 and over represent an estimated 1/3 of Ottawa's senior population.

  • An estimated 51% of recent immigrants speak neither French nor English.

  • Relocation and adaptation to Canadian culture may create additional stresses as a result of language barriers, discrimination and increased dependency on younger family members.

  • While some groups have established strong networks or communities in this country, more recent immigrant groups may be spread out, resulting in isolation and loneliness, hence making them more vulnerable.

Privacy and Immunity


The following are some enabling provisions that permit the sharing of information with police under certain circumstances. As well, there is an immunity built into the same legislation. Please read the following;

Personal Health Information Protection Act 2004, S. O 2004, c. 3, Sched. A;

Disclosures related to risks

40.(1) A health information custodian may disclose personal health information about an individual if the custodian believes on reasonable grounds that the disclosure is necessary for the purpose of eliminating or reducing a significant risk of serious bodily harm to a person or group of persons. 2004, c. 3, Sched. A, s. 40 (1).


71.(1) No action or other proceeding for damages may be instituted against a health information custodian or any other person for,

  • anything done, reported or said, both in good faith and reasonably in the circumstances, in the exercise or intended exercise of any of their powers or duties under this Act; or
  • any alleged neglect or default that was reasonable in the circumstances in the exercise in good faith of any of their powers or duties under this Act. 2004, c. 3, Sched. A, s. 71 (1).

**A "health information custodian" is defined as:

  • Health care practitioner
  • Long Term Care service provider
  • Community Access Care Centre (CCAC)
  • Hospitals, psych facilities
  • Charitable Homes, Homes for the Aged, Rest Homes
  • Pharmacies, laboratories
  • Ambulance service
  • Centre, program or service for community health or mental health whose primary purpose is the provision of health care

Council on Aging of Ottawa

The Council on Aging (COA) of Ottawa is a bilingual, non-profit, voluntary organization dedicated to enhancing the quality of life for all seniors in Ottawa. COA depends on volunteer time and effort given by seniors, the community, professionals and various agencies. Together, they do amazing work, including:

  • providing expertise on seniors' issues;
  • promoting development of effective programs and services for seniors;
  • serving as a partner in the planning and coordination of seniors' services;
  • speaking to government on policy and funding priorities; and,
  • promoting public understanding and awareness of seniors' issues.

Visit them at COA ottawa or 613-789-3577.

Ontario Seniors Secretariat

The Ontario Seniors Secretariat is committed to ensuring Ontario's seniors are able to live their lives to the fullest, with dignity and independence. They have two Web sites specifically designed for seniors and their families. They have many resources which are available in 30 different languages, including:

  • Providing easy access to programs and services
  • Helping seniors keep their independence
  • Promoting active and healthy living
  • Recognizing the contributions of seniors
  • Preventing elder Abuse
  • Supporting people with Alzheimer Disease and related dementias
  • Preventing falls and ensuring safe use of medication
  • Home care and community support services
  • Honouring veterans

Visit them at Seniors Info or Ontario Seniors. Their toll free INFO line is 1-888-910-1999.

Police have access to language services 24/7 and the VSU, as well as other community partners have access to numerous resources that can assist members of marginalized communities.