Journal of Gerontology
Aging Life Network podcast
In 1988 then President Ronald Reagan, himself a senior, signed Proclamation 5847 marking August 21 as National Senior Citizens Day. The largest slice of the American population – nearly 72 million boomers – are nearly all senior citizens, pursuing a variety of endeavors (the youngest boomer will become a senior citizen in 2024). And, as has been typical throughout their recognition as a unique generation, boomers continue to shift expectations and norms.
For example: 55% stated that they are willing to work longer hours than other generations and are considered the second most productive generation after Gen X. Because, while 10,000 boomers are turning 65 daily, that same number is not retiring daily. In an AARP survey, 40% planned to ‘work until I drop.” Those who continue to work – both women and men – tend to be college educated, non-Hispanic white and living in a metropolitan area. This has increased overall economic growth in the U.S. as well as increased retirement income for the longer employed boomer.
And, of course, the Covid pandemic has shifted boomers’ spending and priorities; cruises, typically popular among seniors, are off many lists due to the frightening reality of Covid-related deaths reported in ships’ crowded environments. And time with family, completely shut down in 2020, has now become a greater priority, likely having an impact on retirement relocations.
Another Covid impact has been the horrifying vision of nursing home and hospital deaths, without access to loved ones in last moments. As a result, aging at home has taken on new significance. This will be a boon to the already fast-growing Care Management profession, as more healthcare needs will be met by visiting professionals rather than a relocation to assisted living or nursing home locations.
Boomers, along with the fastest growing group of seniors in the 90+ category, will need services that address aging at home. For example, in addition to your yard guy, housekeeper and handyman, you will now need to plan for someone to drive you places, cook for you, remind you to take your medications and help you get in and out of your tub. For many, these costs will be more than the monthly income they worked so hard to create when doing their retirement planning.
Yet, very significantly, in the U.S., where 80% of the wealth is owned by boomers, this population continues to increase its value to the economy, not only by continuing to work beyond 65, but also by using its stored wealth to spend. And, that spending, plus Covid isolation, has increased seniors’ use of technology which, in itself, increases cognitive skills, staving off some of the traditional memory or thinking losses associated with old age.
Moreover, the boomers’ well-known preference for independence led to a huge growth in business ownership, interest in self-actualization, prosperity, change and a clear orientation towards goal achievement.
Yet, not all seniors are in this vaunted category. Many boomers rely entirely on their Social Security benefit to support them. And the prevalence of obesity among this generation has increased their rates of chronic diseases such as hypertension, high cholesterol and diabetes. This leads to limitations of daily living – bathing, eating, dressing, walking – again, as noted above, leading to a greater need for in-home care.
Ironically, about 20% of boomers, themselves facing greater concerns for healthcare, are also providing healthcare for their aging parents for whom isolation becomes a large issue; this sad aspect to life has been tragically showcased through the many lonely deaths in hospitals and nursing homes resulting from Covid. Yet, even without the severity of the pandemic, boomers who are care givers put additional strains on their health as the relationship of parent/child begins to shift when the child becomes the authority over the parent, often an unwilling partner to this severe change in their life.
And perhaps most insidiously, according to Forbes, $2.9 billion is taken from seniors in scams yearly. Though you may think of your parent (or yourself) as a wise and skeptical person, aging tends to dull everyone’s ability to protect themselves from fraud. We become more trusting and rely on those around us more. This is why it’s smart to take steps to protect your parent or loved one before they fall victim to financial abuse. And frankly, this list may be a guide for yourself; please – don’t be embarrassed by taking advantage of healthy, smart support. Here are ten things you can do and, if you believe any or all of these are necessary or beyond your skill set to maintain, consider enacting a power of attorney with a trusted associate, advisor or family member:
Keep an Eye on Accounts
You may have to switch your parent to online banking to keep a close eye on their bank account, but it’s worth the fuss. Most elderly people have predictable spending habits, so you can spot problems right away. This will also be a great convenience for you with continued Covid concerns. Speak with your account manager about protections your bank has put in place.
Only share access to your or your senior’s account with the most trustworthy family members and not those who have borrowed money from the senior before or who are having financial difficulties. There are third party companies, like EverSafe and the American Association of Daily Money Managers that can help you keep an eye on your parent.
Know What to Look For
When you’re monitoring your parent’s bank account, what should you look for? Sudden payments or withdrawals to places you don’t recognize are most common. Also look for:
- ATM withdrawals
- Other cash withdrawals
- Check purchases
- New accounts
- Unusual savings withdrawals
- Doubled payments
- New people authorized on the account
Put the Checkbook Away
These days everything can be paid with a credit card or through e-transfer, even rent. Checks are more dangerous because there’s no safe guard for fraud. If your parent pays into a scam with their credit card, you can usually recuperate this money. With checks or a debit card, you’re out of luck. It may be wise to lock up your parent’s other payment methods in a safe, and have him or her use them only when you’re around.
Choose Caregivers Carefully
While there are online and telephone scams, 34 percent of elder abuse is actually committed by someone close to the senior. This may include family, caregivers, friends, or neighbors. Appalling to consider yet necessary to acknowledge.
In order to prevent caregiver fraud, ensure that you’ve hired a caregiver from a reputable agency. You may set up a nanny cam or other recording equipment if you suspect abuse – financial, physical or emotional. Be sure that you’re the one paying the caregiver directly and not your parent, so that the caregiver is less likely to demand fraudulent second payment for their “services” from your parent.
Watch New Friends and Relatives
Elders may trust new people in their life too quickly, sometimes lending them money or making them an authority on their accounts. Elders can be manipulated into situations that don’t make sense, like opening up new accounts or taking out loans, to help these “friends.” Keep an eye on any new friends or even recently renewed acquaintances with family members.
Avoid In-Person Scams
Ask your parent to alert you if someone comes by their house unexpectedly. Often scammers pretend to be financial advisers, contractors doing repairs, or landscapers. They offer home services or financial advice but actually target and steal from the elderly. A front door security camera like Nest can help you keep track of unusual visitors to your parent’s home.
Educate Your Parent
If your parent still has a strong memory and understanding of tech enough that you can introduce them to new types of scams committed through technology, you should. Focus especially on scams that target the elderly. While you can’t expect this knowledge to be their only safeguard from financial abuse, it may help them avoid the most serious scams.
Get Regular Credit Reports
Even if you have access to your parent’s account you may miss things. Getting a credit report on them once every few months will ensure you don’t miss it if they open a new credit card or take on some kind of loan, which they could then use to participate in a scam. Frankly, this is good advice for anyone!
Let Your Parent Know You’re There for Them
Elders are less likely to take action against the criminal even when they know they’ve been scammed. Perhaps it increases their fear that they are becoming too dependent on others or they’re embarrassed about being duped. If your parent knows that you’re there to help, and won’t think less of them for falling prey to a scam, they may be more likely to reach out for help if they think they’ve been scammed.
Report Suspected Abuse
If you suspect that your parent has been scammed, it is wise to report the person to the police, or to speak with them directly about it (if they are a friend or family member) right away. Elderly people may be surprisingly trusting and can fall for the same scam twice. Plus, by reporting the scam, you can protect more vulnerable elders like your parent and prevent more financial abuse from happening to others.
Any one of these circumstances is an indicator that a higher level of support is needed, and, the best time to enact it is before they crop up. Power of attorney conferred on a trusted relative or associate is a strong, protective legal instrument to put in place.
By the 1950’s a consensus was building that facilities for the aged should focus on providing medical care, as well as residential care, and legislators decided to actively promote the development of skilled nursing homes. In 1954 the Hill-Burton Act was amended to provide funds to nonprofit organizations for the construction of skilled nursing facilities that met certain hospital-like building standards, if built “in conjunction with a hospital”.
The Hill-Burton amendments created a number of precedents. The changes represented the first time that legislation specifically included nursing homes as part of the health care system rather than the welfare system, and created an expectation that the physical design of nursing homes would be based on hospital design. The Hill-Burton regulations placed nursing homes under the jurisdiction of the National Health Service, ensuring that future regulatory oversight would be medical in nature, and they represented the first time that federal funding for nursing homes was tied to standards for construction and design, staffing patterns, and other medically-oriented concepts.