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Talking Elder Abuse

A FrameWorks Communications Toolkit

This toolkit 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.


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.

Message Memo

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

Message Memo

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.

The Swamp

Swamp Drop

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

Play Swamp Drop

Key Framing Guides

Useful guides to stay on frame.

Sample Communications

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

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.

Gaining Momentum Toolkit

Offers resources for framing the topic of aging.


You are warmly encouraged to adopt this toolkit’s framing recommendations (values, metaphors, narratives, etc.) in public-facing communications. There is no need to cite FrameWorks in such instances. For other uses—such as training other communicators to use these strategies—please see FrameWorks terms of use and seek the appropriate permissions.

© 2020 FrameWorks Institute • Washington, DC 20005 •