Social policy and professional practice across the island of Ireland is dominated by the WHO definition of elder abuse and national and professional interpretations of what constitutes elder abuse. Top-down, generalist knowledge of the abuse of older people have facilitated paternalistic and protectionist policies and services designed to protect older vulnerable adults across the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. However, a qualitative study involving 58 older people in six focus groups held across Ireland highlights an alternative understanding of elder abuse grounded in the subjective experiences of older people across urban and rural communities on the island. Indigenous ways of knowing offer a broader and more inclusive understanding of the experience of elder abuse (Lafferty et al., 2012; Dow and Joosten, 2012) together with opportunities for the prevention of ageism and the empowering of older people across the jurisdictions.
A description of how elder abuse is defined at the global and national level is then compared with the findings of an all-Ireland study of older people's older conceptualisation of elder abuse (Begley et al., 2012) at the local level.
Understanding indigenous perceptions of elder abuse has significant implications for the delivery of cultural relevant social policy and professional practice across Ireland.
Given the exploratory nature of this study, there are significant methodological limitations to its replication, the representativeness of the participants involved and the generalisability of the findings.
However, this study provides unique insights about how some older people conceptualised elder abuse across different cultural and political contexts across Ireland as compared with national and global definitions.
The study on older people's conceptualisation of elder abuse was the first all-Ireland attempt to contribute to the body of knowledge on indigenous perspectives on elder abuse.