Summit Highlights Senior Abuse

By Riley McDavid   Riley McDavid

First, a shamefaced admission for which my friends at Age Well Senior Services will excoriate me: When I first heard about the South County Senior Summit two months ago, the thought of sitting through four hours of talks about senior issues really didn’t excite me.  I mean I’m not exactly ignorant on such matters. I live among seniors — eighteen-bloody-thousand of them.  I read senior periodicals like Life After 50 and our weekly newspaper, The Globe. In the real world, TV stations carry commercials for high-end clothing stores, wonderful feminine fragrances, and 400 horsepower SUVs. The cable system in our senior community hawks hearing aids, Preparation H, and reverse mortgages.  Some of my neighbors may not be able to name our congressman, but they darn well know who Fred Thompson is. (If you don’t know, ask a parent or grandparent.)

So after more than thirteen years of immersion in the culture of aging, what in heck could Mrs. McD and I possibly learn at a geezerfest?

As it turns out, a lot, I must now humbly admit.

• “Elder abuse and financial fraud  [are] … rampant, and seniors are vulnerable, “ Age Well CEO Marilyn Ditty told the gathering at the outset.

• Later Carol Mitchell, director of Orange County Adult Protective Services, reinforced that idea. Eleven percent of seniors are victims of abuse, she pointed out. Worse still,  only one in five cases is actually reported to authorities.

• Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas gave a chilling recitation of elders who had been defrauded by caregivers and relatives, and in some cases had lost everything they had. One con artist took $3 million from seniors at his church.

“What a cover,” Mrs. McD said to me.  “His victims must have thought, ‘Well he goes to church.  He must be honest.’”

And we learned some things we can do to protect ourselves:

• Lock up valuables.

• Don’t let caregivers and others access your bank accounts and credit and debit cards.

• Call Adult Protective Services if you suspect you are being victimized.  800-451-5155 — that’s a 24-hour hotline,

I asked our neighbor Arnie, who was with us, what was the best thing he learned at the summit.

“How to stop being scammed on the telephone,” he said.

“How?” I asked

 “’Hang up. I mean that’s about as simple a solution as you can get.  Hang the ding dang phone up. Some people are too polite for their own good.”

Actually what I’ve recounted is a relative smidgen of what we all learned. The morning was filled with an array of highly engaging speakers.  I occasionally take long walks past dozens of homes whose occupants I don’t know.  As peaceful as the homes look, I’m now beginning to wonder if there aren’t some felonious scenarios being played out behind a few of those doors.

If you didn’t attend the Summit, you can read Globe reporter Jennifer Karmarkar’s excellent coverage of the event either in the February 28 Laguna Woods Globe or online at http://www.ocregister.com/news/county-497100-seniors-services.html

And you can still see what went on if you have access to the Laguna Woods Village cable system. According to the official program handed out at the Summit, TV-6 will air three broadcasts of it: Friday, March 8 at 2 p.m., Friday, March 15 at 6 p.m., and Tuesday March 26 at 2 p.m.  You can also see showings via the Cox Communications Available On Demand service, Cox Channel 1636, from March 8 through the end of 2013.

The event was sponsored by Orange County Fifth District Supervisor Pat Bates, who for years has been an outspoken champion of senior issues, and by the Office on Aging, Age Well Senior Services, and Laguna Woods Village. And next year, you can bet we will be there.

Coming up on the Age Well Calendar:

Monday, June 3: Clyde Wright Invitational Golf Tournament. Benefiting Meals on Wheels and other Senior Services. 11 a.m. shotgun start at the Aliso Viejo Country Club. Golf plus continental breakfast, box lunch, buffet dinner, plus prizes for contests.  For more info, call (949) 855-8033.

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