Estimates of elder abuse approximate 10% of Americans over 65 years of age; obtaining accurate incidence and prevalence figures is complicated by factors including denial by both the victim and perpetrator and minimization of complaints by health professionals. Broad agreement exists in categorizing elder abuse as physical, psychological, and financial and/or material, despite lack of uniformity in definitions. Systematic scientific investigation provides limited knowledge about the causes of elder abuse. Most experts, however, believe that family problems and conflict are a major precipitating factor. Preliminary hypotheses for elder abuse include dependency, lack of close family ties, family violence, lack of financial resources, psychopathology in the abuser, lack of community support, and certain factors that may precipitate abuse in institutional settings. This report presents potential indicators of physical and psychological abuse, along with classification of elderly individuals at high risk, to assist the health professional in identification and prevention of elder abuse.