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Aging in America: News and Trends From 2 Summits

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Aging in America: News and Trends From 2 Summits

"Last week, I spent four days at the American Society on Aging’s 2019 Aging in America Conference and the What’s Next Boomer Business Summit, both in New Orleans. My goal: to learn and report on the latest news and trends concerning money, work and volunteering for boomers and Gen Xers. I attended numerous sessions and represented Next Avenue by moderating or presenting at seven. Here are highlights:

The Future of Aging in America

I moderated a panel on The Future of Aging in America, featuring three of Next Avenue’s 2018 Influencers in Aging: Thomas Kamber, executive director of Older Adults Technology Services; Anne Tumlinson, founder of Daughterhood.org and Sara Zeff Geber, president and owner of LifeEncore and author of Essential Retirement Planning for Solo Agers (solo agers are people aging alone). Each spoke about what most concerned them about the future of aging in America, what they were most optimistic about and where the future of aging in America is heading.

Kamber was the most ebullient, though he was concerned that programming for older adults was not fully engaging them and offering opportunities. They’re looking for “a sense of meaning” in their lives, Kamber said.

Tumlinson was especially concerned about Americans’ ability to pay for long-term-care, a topic she’s been working on for more than two decades. “I’m frustrated more aging professionals aren’t talking about this,” she said. Tumlinson didn’t expect the federal government to do much to help, but thought states might. And she was particularly optimistic about young Americans’ interest in solving the nation’s caregiving issues. “Gen Z takes the future very seriously,” she noted.

Geber, a solo ager, said she thought financial services companies should pay more attention, and offer more guidance, to older people without family members. These people often need to find someone to speak for them if they become unable to make decisions about their finances or their health. Many solo agers, however, resort to what Geber calls “magical thinking,” assuming that they’ll “live healthfully until they suddenly die peacefully in their sleep after a fabulous day at the beach and an amazing dinner.” But, she added, “you know that’s not reality for so many people.”

Elder Fraud and Financial Exploitation

A panel of experts on elder fraud and financial exploitation were adamant that these scourges remain huge problems for older Americans and their loved ones. The data backs them up: A recent Comparitech.com study estimated there are 5 million cases of elder fraud in the United States annually, resulting in $27.4 billion in losses. And most victims don’t report it, due to embarrassment, said Leita King, fraud, scams and ID theft protection coordinator at Lifespan of Greater Rochester.

These days, Social Security scams and “romance” scams are especially prevalent. Hazel Heckers, victim assistance coordinator at the Colorado Bureau of Investigation, told the sad story of a Colorado man, now 97, who sent women he didn’t know over $3 million, despite warnings from law enforcement.

“The only way we got him to stop sending money was that one of my agents went out to his house and said he was going to arrest the man if he gave away any more money,” Heckers said. “He said: ‘Go ahead and arrest me, I don’t care. I’m going to keep sending the money.’” When Heckers’ team asked him why, he said, “She makes me feel like a man again.”

Isolation and loneliness are a key reason so many older adults get scammed, Heckers said. “They actually answer the phone,” she added. “I can’t tell you the last time I answered a phone without Caller ID.”

Liz Keith of probono.net and Molly White of the Center for Elder Law & Justice described a new app they’ve introduced in upstate New York, called the Legal Risk Detector. It helps law enforcement and caregivers identify potential fraud issues of homebound, vulnerable older adults and then connect the potential victims with local legal services providers..."

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