Sen. Herb Kohl, the Wisconsin Democrat who chairs the Senate Special Committee on Aging, is calling on the Justice Department to focus more attention on abuse of the elderly. Kohl, in a letter to the department's Office of Victims of Crime, pointed out what simple arithmetic makes clear. The burgeoning number of senior citizens over time will, by definition, mean that more and more elderly people will suffer from financial and physical abuse.

Kohl wants the office to add elder abuse to the list of priority items that states can cite in seeking funding.

Social scientists have been slower to pick up on the problem of elder abuse than on the harmful treatment of children, which now receives considerable focus from the federal government. Yet a growing number of studies show that abuse of the elderly is widespread. As many as one in 20 report that money has been improperly taken from them in the preceding year. That would translate into 2.5 million people nationally. Those same studies show that the perpetrators typically are trusted advisers – lawyers or financial advisers.

Or members of their own families.