The Prevalence of Elder Abuse and Financial Exploitation in Today's Society: Why You Should Be Concerned

posted 10/13/2015 in Trust

Written by: Julie Versluis, Former Trust Employee
In my 17 year career in the Trust and Estate Planning environment, I have had the unfortunate experience of learning about elder abuse and financial exploitation. Sadly, I have had clients who were the victims of elder abuse and financial exploitation at the hands of those they trusted most. Some of my clients were victims of physical abuse or were taken advantage of financially, and on a few occasions, they were the victims of both crimes.  As a result, the prevention of elder abuse and financial exploitation is something I am very passionate about.

Abuse is ugly in any form.  But elder abuse often goes unrecognized and unreported because of the shame victims feel, their fear of losing independence, and their fear of retaliation. The Journal of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys estimates that over 84% of elder abuse cases go unreported and 40% of all elder abuse involves some form of financial exploitation.

With such an alarming number of unreported cases, this problem will only increase as the largest generation reaches this vulnerable age.  The US Administration on Aging projects that the number of Americans 65 years or older will increase by 55 million during the period of 2010 to 2020.  This number is a 36% increase and more than doubles the increase from the previous ten year period.  The same data also projects the number of Americans 85 years or older will increase by 44% from 2010 to 2020, or an increase of 7.3 million elder Americans in this age group.

Retirement is a period of life often referred to as “the Golden Years.”  It’s the picture we paint for ourselves for what the future will hold. However, it may no longer hold that golden hue if we don’t concern ourselves with the prevention of elder abuse and financial exploitation.

If elder abuse isn’t addressed, the “Golden Years” are instead cut short, with abuse radically reducing the lifespan of an older victim.  Rosalie Wolf, in her paper “The Nature and Scope of Elder Abuse,” published in the Generations Journal Vol. XXIV, No 1, American Society on Aging, 2000 reported a 13 year study found that only 9% of abused elders were still living, compared to 40% of non-abused elders.

Roughly, 1 in every 8 people is an older American.  You know them. They are your parents, your grandparents, your aunts and uncles, your neighbors and your friends.  And if we don’t seek to educate and advise the public to create awareness, we will fail ourselves.  We will fail the generations who have gone before us; generations who raised us; who looked after us, providing a future for our benefit.  Isn’t it time we honored them with the same respect and addressed this issue?

Learn how to protect yourself and your loved ones against elder abuse by learning the signs to look for in our blog, Financial Exploitation of the Elderly:  The Signs to Look For.

Lincoln Savings Bank, Member FDIC.
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