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Understanding old age and victimisation: a critical exploration

Jason L. Powell (School of Sociology and Social Policy, University of Liverpool, Liverpool, UK)
Azrini Wahidin (Centre for Criminal Justice Research, Birmingham City University, Birmingham, UK)

International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy

ISSN: 0144-333X

Article publication date: 25 April 2008




The purpose of paper is to shine light on the under‐theorised relationship between old age and victmisation. In classical criminological studies, the relationship between “age”, victimisation and crime has been dominated by analysis of younger people's experiences. This paper aims to address this knowledge deficit by exploring older people's experiences by linking it to the social construction of vulnerability.


The paper explores both historical and contemporary narratives relating to the diverse experiences of older people as victims in the UK. In particular, from 1945 to the present, statistical context and theoretical advancement illuminates that older people as a social group have a deep “fear of crime” to their relative victimisation.


A careful survey of the criminological literature highlights a paucity of research relating to older people's views and experiences of crime and victimisation. The conceptual issue of vulnerability in different contexts is important in understanding ageing and victimisation in UK. The paper's findings illustrate that their experiences have remained marginalised in the debates around social policy, and how the criminal justice system responds to these changes remains yet to be seen.

Research limitations/implications

Any research attempt at theorising “age” should take into consideration not just younger people, but also the diverse experiences of older people. Policy makers may care to ponder that benchmarks be written that takes into full consideration of older people's experiences as vulnerability.

Practical implications

For criminal justice scholars and practitioners, there is a need to listen to the narratives of older people that should help shape and frame debate about their lived experiences. There should be an examination of existing formal and informal practices regarding elders, as the first step in developing an explicit and integrated set of policies and programmes to address the special needs of this group.


This is an original paper in highlighting how important old age is in construction of “victims” in modern society. By theorising age, victimisation and crime it is hoped to dispel and challenge some of the myths surrounding later life, crime and the older victim.



Powell, J.L. and Wahidin, A. (2008), "Understanding old age and victimisation: a critical exploration", International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy, Vol. 28 No. 3/4, pp. 90-99.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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