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DAMIA – Older Adult Mistreatment and Bullying: Enhancing Awareness Practices of Community-Based Organizations Promoting the Transition from Awareness to Reporting


Marie Beaulieu, Ph. D., University of Sherbrooke




Caroline Pelletier, Project Coordinator, Doctoral Student in Gerontology (University of Sherbrooke) and Research Assistant


The Quebec Age-Friendly Program (QADA): $300 000


From December 2015, to December 2018.


Project leader


Community-based organizations that counter bullying of older adult and mistreatment provide a variety of awareness-raising activities. These activities are intended to inform older adults on ways of proceeding, tools, resources, or remedies available to them to talk about the situation of mistreatment or bullying they are experiencing.

In some cases, these activities allow them to become aware that they are being mistreated or bullied. However, older adults who want to seek help do not act immediately. It is therefore important to question ourselves about the efficiency of awareness actions.

Many factors that prevent older adults from seeking help in a context of mistreatment or bullying are theoretically well-known: fear of calling the police, being convinced that services aren’t needed, being convinced that the person who mistreats or bullies will get what he/she wants despite possible interventions to end this situation, feeling of shame and guilt, fear of retaliation, fear of being placed in a nursing home, etc. However, few studies have been conducted concerning the practice.

Giving a voice to older adults allowed a better understanding of their needs regarding accompaniment and support. It also proposed ways to maximize awareness-raising activities offered to older adults on the subject of bullying and mistreatment by community-based organizations.


Commonly referred to as Seeking Help in response to mistreatment and bullying of older adults(DAMIA), the aim of the project is to:

Identify obstacles preventing older adults from seeking help in situations of mistreatment and bullying, as well as the needs to raise awareness among themselves to improve existing practices of community-based organizations. It aims at responding to seven questions:

  1. What are the obstacles that prevent older adults from seeking help in a context of mistreatment and bullying in Quebec? How do they compare with those identified in international literature?
  2. Do the obstacles identified vary according to the older adult’s living environment?
  3. What are the needs of older adults with regards to raising awareness so as to make the transition from awareness to seeking help in situations of mistreatment?
  4. Are the current awareness practices adequate to promote the transition from awareness to seeking help?
  5. What type of content should be included in the Practice Guide for community-based organizations in order to foster this transition?
  6. How to properly implement the Practice Guide?
  7. What observations can be drawn from the application of this new Practice Guide?


This project had six objectives:

  1. Take a critical look at the current awareness-raising practices within community-based organizations
  2. Identify obstacles that prevent older adults from seeking help in situations of mistreatment and bullying based on the various living environments of older adults
  3. Develop a Practice Guide to maximize activities to raise awareness of mistreatment and bullying of older adults. The guide will be for: 1) Administrators of community-based organizations and supervisors of awareness-raising activities
  4. Evaluate the acceptability of the guide in community-based organization devoted to countering mistreatment and bullying of older adults
  5. With the results from the fourth objective, produce a final version of the Practice Guide
  6. Share and promote the Practice Guide


  • Collection of theoretical and practice data in 6 steps:
  • Summary of knowledge by two international systematic reviews over a period of 10 years:
    • Firstly, on the practices of community -based organizations in countering mistreatment and bullying
    • Secondly, on the factors that prevent or encourage older adults to seeking help in contexts of mistreatment and bullying
    • Critical inventory of the material and awareness-raising activities in place at DIRA-Estrie and at organizations within the seven regional county municipalities (RCMs) in the Estrie region that undertake such activities
    • Questionnaires distributed among 305 older adults (258 in French and 47 in English)
    • 17 group interviews with older adults according to various living environments where people can be bullied or mistreated: the traditional home, social housing for older adults, housing co-operatives and private residences for older adults
    • One interview with managers from various living environments or organizations for older adults (n = 11 people)
    • One group interview with administrators, intervention workers and volunteers from DIRA-Estrie (n=8).
  • Quantitative and qualitative analysis of the collected data
  • Identify emerging practices
  • Production of a Practice Guide
  • Evaluation of the acceptability of the Practice Guide in the different community-based organization offering awareness-raising activities on mistreatment and bullying to older adults
  • Revision and finalization of the Practice Guide
  • Implementation of a plan for the transfer of knowledge and distribution of the Practice Guide


Caroline Pelletier became the coordinator of the DAMIA project in February, 2016. She is a member of the Chair team and is currently a doctoral student in Gerontology, under the direction of Marie Beaulieu, at the University of Sherbrooke. Her thesis project is in line with the DAMIA project and is aiming at a better understanding of older adults’ experiences in situations of mistreatment. For more information, see the description of Caroline’s thesis project.

The Chair and DIRA-Estrie are working closely to achieve each stage of the project. Together, they have developed the tools enabling them to initiate data collection, which has been in progress since the summer of 2016, following the approval of the research ethics committee of the Faculty of Literature and Human Sciences of the University of Sherbrooke, referred to as CÉR. It is now completed.

The summary of the state of knowledge is finished (literature review, interjudge validation of summaries, reading the articles, completion of reading grids) and the drafting of the report is almost completed.

The inventory of awareness-raising activities to counter mistreatment and bullying of older adults is finalized. The critical analysis of the content of these activities is completed, but will be enhanced by observing the progress of some of these activities.

The advisory committee was formed in the spring of 2016. It consists of 17 field experts from various backgrounds such as:

  • Steering committees and seniors’ associations (Regional steering committee to counter mistreatment of older adults, Seniors’ Steering Committee of the Estrie region, AREQ Estrie, AFEAS Estrie, FADOQ Estrie);
  • Community-based organizations (Carrefour communautaire Montrose [Community hub], Réseau d’Amis-RAAN [Community organization promoting the quality of life of older adults and caregivers], Les Saguenéens et Jeannois pour les droits de la personne [Community organization advocating human rights], Alzheimer Society, Centre d’action bénévole (CAB) de Coaticook [Volunteer center]);
  • Various living environments (OMH Sherbrooke [Municipal housing bureau], Les Jardins de Magog Residences, La Seigneurie Chartwell Residences);
  • Le Pont (organization promoting alternative justice);
  • AFCC program (AFC Sherbrooke);

In addition, two experts from the partner organization DIRA-Estrie sit on the Advisory Committee: a volunteer and a member of the Board of Directors. The role of this committee is to provide advice and recommendations to the research team on the progress of the work.

A first meeting with the Advisory Committee was held at the end of May, 2016, to meet with each expert on the Committee, introduce them to the project and the upcoming phases, to list the expectations of the research team toward the Advisory Committee. The Committee was then invited to offer advice and recommendations for the DAMIA project. A second meeting took place in December of the same year to present the progress of the work and activities for the upcoming year. The final meeting is foreseen for November, 2018.