The Elderly Offender and the Elderly Victim of Crime: A South African Overview

  • Christiaan BezuidenhoutEmail author
  • Karen Booyens


In South Africa an “older person” means a person who in the case of a male is 65 years of age or older and in the case of a female is 60 years of age or older. When an older person of this age group commits a crime, it usually intrigues people as crimes by older people are significantly less compared to the extent of crimes committed by the younger generation. It is almost seen as a-typical. Although this contribution will refer to crimes committed by the elderly, the elderly attention will be given to the victimised elderly population of South Africa. When it comes to protecting the rights of the most vulnerable in our society, we often focus on women and children. However, one tends to forget that our senior citizens become dependent again which for obvious reasons results in them becoming soft targets for abuse in different forms, as well as easy targets for criminals. The elderly are also often abused because of their weakened physique and often mental degradation. The abuse very often comes at the hands of those who have been tasked with caring for them in the home or in institutions. In South Africa it is also not uncommon to hear of the rape of older women in the home. In addition “loved” ones often extort the elderly’s pension money. The financial abuse takes the form of extortion and stealing of possessions and pension money. The financial abuse of the elderly seems to be the most prevalent form of abuse in South Africa. Some unique forms of victimisation elders in South Africa endure frequently are being attacked during house robberies or farm attacks. Also some are being killed because they are deemed to be “witches”. South Africa possesses a multi-cultural society also referred to as the rainbow nation where Western and traditional (African) cultures co-exist. One of the most significant challenges facing the post-apartheid government is the tension between the modern world and traditionalism. In the black ethnic groups, elderly women are mostly accused of witchcraft. People by default take the law into their own hands, and in the majority of cases of witchcraft-related violence, alleged witches have been killed in brutal fashion. This contribution will explore the different types of victimisation the South African elderly endure. Where appropriate reference will be made to offences some older persons commit.


Older offenders Post-apartheid period “Witches” Older person Farm attack Diogenes syndrome 


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Social Work and CriminologyUniversity of PretoriaPretoriaSouth Africa

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