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Criminal Behavior

The Substance Abuse Factor, Crimes Older Adults Commit, Explanations For Criminal Behavior, Sentencing Of Older Offenders

An eighty-year-old man is convicted of second-degree criminal solicitation for offering a substantial sum of money to have his business partner of forty years murdered. A woman, seventy-two years old, robs a female acquaintance, age ninety-one, at gunpoint. A restaurant supply delivery man argues with a bank security guard after double-parking his truck and blocking three of the bank's parking spaces and is shot to death by the sixty-seven-year-old security guard.

Why do these events seem so out of place? Should such violent acts by older adults surprise us? In fact, real-life incidents such as these are somewhat unusual, but there are more and more of them in the news. Probably the most widely accepted truism in the field of criminology is that criminal activity declines sharply as age increases. According to Uniform Crime Report data compiled for 1997, only 0.2 percent of the U.S. population 65 years of age and older was arrested for any criminal offense, compared to 7.7 percent of those age 25 to 29 and 2.5 percent of those age 45 to 49.

However, number of arrests may be a particularly poor indicator of actual criminal activity taking place among the older population. Anecdotal evidence exists to suggest that older individuals are less likely than younger people to be arrested, at least for minor offenses. Police may exercise considerable discretion and choose not to make any arrest out of deference—or pity— for older persons. Such "special" treatment could change, of course, as older persons form a larger segment of the population in coming decades. Be that as it may, the proportion of crimes committed by older adults will grow as the ranks of older individuals increase from 12.6 percent Joseph Fowler, sixty-six, is a prisoner at the Ahtanum View Assisted Living Facility in Yakima, Washington, where he is serving a sentence of twenty years to life for second-degree murder. Beginning in 1997, the state of Washington began housing elderly and disabled prisoners in a minimum security, assisted-living environment that is designed to save money and better serve prisoners. (AP photo by Jackie Johnston.) of the total U.S. population in 2000 to 13.2 percent in 2010 and to approximately 20 percent by 2030.

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Medicine EncyclopediaAging Healthy - Part 1