Talking Elder Abuse

A FrameWorks Communications Toolkit

Get Started


Welcome to Talking Elder Abuse—a collection of framing research, recommendations, and sample communications.

This toolkit is designed to help experts and advocates who work in this field to increase public understanding of

  • why elder abuse is a matter of public concern
  • the causes of elder abuse, including the social determinants and environmental factors that can foster the occurrence of abuse, and
  • what solutions can most effectively prevent elder abuse, address existing cases, and improve the conditions and wellbeing of those who have experienced abuse.

This toolkit, sponsored by Archstone Foundation, The John A. Hartford Foundation, and Grantmakers in Aging, and in partnership with the National Center on Elder Abuse at the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California, models how to apply the FrameWorks Institute’s evidence-based recommendations to messages and conversations about elder abuse and related issues, in order to build public understanding and support. The kit’s materials include:

  • sample communications, such as a “key points” guide and social media content, that can be adapted and repurposed for your organization’s needs
  • communications examples that demonstrate the “do’s and don’ts” of the framing recommendations
  • graphics that illustrate the key concepts of the recommendations
  • annotations that explain the framing strategies being illustrated.

Users are encouraged to borrow toolkit language verbatim if desired—no citation or special permissions are needed—and also to adapt the examples to the immediate needs of a local communications context.

For nearly two decades, FrameWorks research has demonstrated that effective communications can help to engage the public in conversations about complex social issues—such as the causes and consequences of elder abuse and the social policies and programs that can prevent its occurrence and improve the lives of older people in the US. This toolkit is based on the findings of a two-year, multi-method study of elder abuse and aging that queried more than 10,400 Americans’ thinking on these issues. The research included expert interviews, on-the-street interviews, large-scale surveys, and persistence and usability trials. This extensive research included the development, empirical testing, and refinement of the tools and strategies offered in this toolkit. For more on the evidence base that informs the recommendations in this toolkit, visit our website.


The Big Picture

These materials offer a succinct overview of how to talk about elder abuse.



This MessageMemo summarizes the findings from our research, and provides advocates with a communications strategy.


Quick Start Guide

Take a quick tour of communications themes to avoid, compared with alternatives to advance.


Reframe Cards

Download printable cards summarizing tested frame elements.



As advocates and communicators join the initiative to change how we talk about elder abuse, they will likely have questions. Here are some answers.

Anticipating Public Thinking

Public thinking is like a swamp – and it can be hard to get your messages through. With a map, you can navigate it.


The Swamp

Visual summary of relevant findings from cultural models research.


Swamp Glossary

Learn which cultural models are present in the public’s thinking about elder abuse.


Interactive Swamp Drop

Play our interactive swamp drop to practice how to use productive frames in your communications.

Key Framing Guides

Useful guides to stay on frame.


Key Points

Use this general guide to develop your communications.


Annotated FAQs

Stay on message in the face of tough questions.


Storytelling Strategies

Learn why thematic storytelling is important for your communications.

Sample Communications

These materials model how to apply the tested frame elements to your communications.

Social Media

Even micro-messages can be opportunities to frame your communications more effectively.


Website content provides an opportunity to influence public discourse by introducing a reframed perspective to the online community.

Sample Pamphlet

Well-framed communications and marketing materials, like brochures and flyers, deepen knowledge and enhance engagement around social issues. This sample shows how to frame a pamphlet about elder abuse that is intended for people who care for older adults—including professionals and loved ones.

Sample Op-Ed

Op-eds reach wide audiences and introduce people to new issues. This sample models how to frame one about elder abuse in minority racial and ethnic communities.

Additional Resources

Strengthening Support - An Overview of Framing Research on Elder Abuse

Watch this webinar presentation given to the National Center on Elder Abuse to get a comprehensive understanding of the research that informs the recommendations in this toolkit.

"You Only Pray that Somebody Would Step In": Mapping the Gaps Between Expert and Public Understandings of Elder Abuse in America
This report represents the first step in a larger effort to reframe public understanding of elder abuse. Through this analysis, we find that the public struggles to see elder abuse as a societal problem that can and must be solved through collective action and public policy. The report concludes with initial recommendations for addressing this and other communication challenges.

Learn on Your Own
Nonprofit professionals who are immersed in FrameWorks approach learn much more than a set of tested talking points. Explore our learning materials to further your understanding of effective framing strategies.

Gaining Momentum Toolkit
Offers resources for framing the topic of aging.