Friday, 29 April 2016

Fraud and Scams

A recent news piece detailed a story of an elderly man who was the victim of a financial scam by a woman he married while in his late 80's. The story had elements of elder abuse and financial abuse with a clear picture of how people who are at a vulnerable stage especially without family to keep an eye on them, can fall victim to con artists. His fear was that he would end up in a nursing home and so, placed his trust in a woman who duped him and it appears, others before him.

 It reminded me of a case I had as a hospital social worker many, many years ago where a woman 50 years the junior of an elderly sick man, convinced him to marry her and change his will and powers of attorney. It was my first experience with a situation like this and very difficult to witness. And while there was family, they were not aware of the problem until the damage had been done.

Over the years, unfortunately, these types of stories have become far too common. There are several financial scams geared to target the elderly, And while we read about people after they have been victimized, I do wonder how many seniors actually know what to be wary of. And really, it's not just about seniors. All of us have to be aware. I receive emails and calls frequently which are clear scams. A few months back I got a message from Revenue Canada. It made no sense to me so I started investigating it and discovered that it was a scam and many people had been getting similar calls. Even if one out of 1000 people take it seriously, the con men involved can make a fortune at it. Soon after, I read a story about someone who had fallen victim to this exact scam and handed over thousands of dollars to an unknown crook posing as the tax department. So what can we do to protect ourselves and those we care about?

The RCMP has created an online Guidebook for seniors about Fraud and Scams (http://www.rcmp-grc.gc.ca/pubs/ccaps-spcca/seniors-aines-eng.htm#Fraud) but I question how many people actually know about it and the many different types of fraud and scams that exist. Everything from Lottery Scams to Identity Theft and everything in between is detailed in it. It is most definitely worth a read and a discussion with those you care about. Take some time to read about the scams that are out there and what you can do to protect yourself. Educate yourself and others. The more aware people become of this and the more publicity we give it, the less victims there will be.

Friday, 15 April 2016

Is 70 the new 50?

Two news items about seniors caught my attention this week. The first was a few days ago - a 72-year-old woman spent 9 days lost in the wilderness with her dog. She was found safe and sound in good health having survived drinking from ponds and eating plants. A remarkable story of survival  and most definitely a feel-good newsworthy story. 
The second story was in today's paper. A couple who knew each other as teenagers, lost touch for over 50 years and reunited through social media, fell in love again and will finally marry this summer. Now how amazing is that? 
So why did these two stories catch my attention? Much like stories of 90-year-olds who skydive or learn how to fly an airplane, both are things we rarely attribute to 'older' people. So much of society is still ageist and our perceptions of seniors often align themselves with typical older person activities so, it really is quite refreshing to see seniors portrayed differently. The adage 'you are only as old as you feel' clearly rings true in both of these situations. And, the more we hear about seniors who are not really 'old', the more we are able to combat ageism and change the perceptions people have about what it means to be older. Retirement is not necessarily for everyone over 65. In fact, many people work well beyond that still others volunteer, travel and do many other things that fill their days and nights. Retirement has taken on new meaning as has aging. We are all living healthier longer so it is quite understandable that our perceptions need to shift. Perhaps the best way for that shift to happen is to observe our world in real time. To speak to real 'seniors'. And to educate ourselves about the trends and benefits of aging well.