As people age, they are more likely to be taken advantage of by people trying to get their money, Liz Loewy, a senior vice president at EverSafe, told a crowd of several hundred people gathered at Holiday Park Senior Center in Wheaton.
Older adults should never be too ashamed or embarrassed to report that they have been abused, they were told Tuesday, June 14 during Montgomery County’s sixth annual observance of World Elder Abuse Awareness Day.
About 19 percent of the county’s population, some 188,000 people, are 60 years or older. Nationwide, 10,000 Americans are turning 65 every day, Loewy said. These older adults are at an age where dementia can set in, making them more susceptible to financial scams as well as physical, sexual and emotional abuse.
More often than not, the abuse is done by a family member or a caretaker, hoping to take advantage of what they consider an easy target, she said.
This abuse will continue if the elderly keep it to themselves, refusing to admit that it happened or refusing to turn in a family member, Loewy said. “Folks are embarrassed to report it.”
Only one in 44 cases of elder fraud ever get reported, she noted.
Loewy, as well as several county officials, stressed the importance of reporting any crime.
“Be sure that you know, and that your friends all know, that there is lots of assistance out there,” said Rona Kramer, Maryland’s Secretary of Aging and sister to Del. Ben Kramer, D-District 19.
The county has numerous resources to help anyone who has been abused and no one should be intimidated or feel like they can’t fight back, said Montgomery County Police Chief Tom Manger.
“There are folks here who want to help, who can be trusted,” he said.
Manger equated elder abuse with the recent mass shooting at a gay bar in Orlando, Fl. in which 49 people were murdered and even more injured. Some criminals target people “because of what they are, who they are or what they believe,” he said. And when that happens, it is “really an attack on the freedoms of this country.”
Both the LGBT community and older adults are “vulnerable segments of our society,” Manger said.
While the Internet can make it easier to take financial advantage of someone, mainly through the obtaining of personal information, it also can assist in stopping many cases, Loewy said.
Bank and credit card companies are able to alert people or put a freeze on accounts when fraud is suspected, she said.
During the three-hour program, seniors attended workshops on safety and technology, the creation of passwords, identity theft and ways to outsmart someone trying to steal their money.
In one workshop, a representative from Alert Montgomery demonstrated how to get alerts on their computer or phone from the county concerning police incidents, the weather, public transportation and county events.
The seniors, who were treated to a boxed lunch, also spent time browsing through two rooms with tables filled with information on a variety of subjects including health, banking, food, legal aid and disability services.