In its ongoing efforts to fight the growing problem elder abuse in the state, AARP Montana partnered with Big Sky Senior Services to present an elder abuse prevention conference May 24in Billings. Headlining the event was nationally-renowned aging policy expert Bob Blancato.
See Also: Elder Abuse – A hidden epidemic is slowly coming out of the shadows
Blancato was appointed by former President Bill Clinton as the Executive Director of the White House Conference on Aging in 1995. He later spearheaded the successful efforts to pass the Elder Justice Act, which President Barack Obama signed into law in 2010. He is currently the National Coordinator of the Elder Justice Coalition, a bi-partisan, 650 member organization working to promote elder justice in the United States.
Under the theme “A Community Epidemic: How Elder Abuse Affects Us All” the all-day conference explored the extent of the problem in Montana and the tools available to protect victims of elder abuse.
“Our aging population is growing, and with that, so are the incidents of elder abuse and neglect,” said Joy Bruck, AARP Montana State President. “As a society, we must take action to put an end these terrible injustices against the elderly, or the problem will continue to get worse. Our seniors have the right to live out their lives in a safe environment with access to the best care possible, and that is why AARP Montana is working to fight elder abuse on several fronts.”
The American Psychological Association estimates that 2.1 million older Americans become victims of abuse each year. But research shows that elder abuse is significantly under-reported and under-identified. As few as one in six cases of elder abuse come to the attention of authorities, according to the National Center on Elder Abuse.
In addition, elders throughout the United States lose an estimated $2.6 billion or more annually due to financial abuse and exploitation, funds that could have been used to pay for basic needs such as housing, food, medicine, and medical care. Unfortunately, no one is immune to abuse, neglect, and exploitation. It occurs in every demographic, and can happen to anyone. Yet it is estimated that only about one in five of these financial crimes are ever reported. These crimes include identity theft, fake check scams, wire transfer scams, and securities fraud.
According to the latest research conducted by AARP Montana – Voices of 50+ Montana: Dreams and Challenges – Montanans age 50+ are worried about consumer financial issues. Seventy percent of respondents are worried about protecting themselves from identity theft and 59 percent are worried about protecting themselves from unfair or deceptive financial practices.
“Our seniors are among our most vulnerable citizens, and it is critical that we protect them,” said Bruck. “The awareness and community involvement promoted by this conference are critical ways to reduce the financial, physical and emotional abuse of the elderly, who make up about 14.6 percent of Montana’s population.”
In addition to Blancato, speakers at the conference included:
- Tom Hanel, Mayor of Billings
- Jenny Eck of the Montana Attorney General’s Office
- Denise Armstrong, executive Director of Big Sky Senior Services
- Laurie Peterson-Yamamoto, Regional Supervisor, Adult Protective Services
- Brian O’Neil, Special Agent, U.S. Secret Service
- John Teeling, Special Agent, FBI
- Brett Lampman, Billings Police Department
- Gary Connelly and Sol Lovas (both attorneys)
Presenters provided detailed information and answered questions on a variety of elder abuse and protection issues, including neglect, physical and psychological aspects of elder abuse, financial scams, safety issues, in-home care options, trends in fraud committed against the elderly and specific Montana cases prosecuted by state and local authorities.