Armed with a passion for social work and nearly two decades of experience in public policy and elder law, Jilenne Gunther is on a mission to solve policy problems and implement solutions to protect the finances of older Americans and their families. As the national director of AARP’s BankSafe Initiative, Jilenne is following in the footsteps of a three-generation banking family. She is leveraging her expertise to focus on the intersection between financial exploitation, dementia, caregiving and the accessibility of the banking environment for older adults. Core to that effort is her work leading the development of a game-changing financial exploitation prevention training program that is empowering the frontlines of financial institutions nationwide to curb exploitation.
She’s spent the last 15 years developing programs and conducting groundbreaking research that have advanced financial exploitation prevention across the country, including the creation of the nation’s first banking account feature to help family and caregivers prevent exploitation.
Her efforts in creating and building programs from the ground up have protected more than five million older adults across the nation from financial exploitation. In addition, her pioneering work in identifying legal needs to better target services to consumers in Utah resulted in nearly five times the amount of legal service funds and in-kind donations being made in the state. Inspired by her success, more than 40 states have implemented programs replicating her work.
Jilenne has authored two books on consumer rights and elder law, and has written a pioneering analysis on the economic cost of financial exploitation. Her work has been cited in Senate hearings, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau advisories and U.S. Government Accountability Office reports, and she has been widely quoted in Forbes, Money Magazine, The Associated Press, American Banker and other media outlets. As a result of her commitment to making a difference in the lives of older adults, Jilenne has received 15 awards and counting, including the State of Utah’s Woman of the Year Achievement Award. She holds a Masters in Social Work from Washington University in St. Louis, and a Juris Doctor from the University of Utah.
In Her Words
“The BankSafe training platform is the result of true collaboration between the financial industry and AARP. Together, we aim to create a nationwide network of highly trained professionals committed to helping older adults protect their life savings.”
Jilenne Gunther and Pamela Teaster, “AARP BankSafe: The Impact of Training Financial Professionals to Prevent Financial Exploitation,” Virginia Tech Center for Gerontology, (in press).
Jilenne Gunther, “The Thief that Knows You: The Cost of Elder Exploitation examined,” AARP Public Policy Institute, 2019.
Jilenne Gunther, “The Business Case: Why Financial Institutions Should Fight Exploitation and Protect Savings,” AARP Public Policy Institute, 2015.
Jilenne Gunther, Navigating Your Rights: The National Legal Guide for Those 50 and Over. Washington, DC: Sheridan. 2014
Jilenne Gunther, “AARP’s BankSafe Initiative: A Comprehensive Approach to Better Serving and Protecting Consumers,” AARP Public Policy Institute, 2014.
Read Jilenne Gunther's blog posts.
Honors and Awards:
- Learn X award for AARP BankSafe Training
- Telly Award for the AARP BankSafe Training
- Davey Award for the AARP BankSafe Training
- Horizon Award for the AARP BankSafe Training
- Omni Award for the AARP BankSafe Training
- Woman of the Year Lifetime Achievement Award, State of Utah
- Innovative Community Bank of the Year Award, Western Independent Bankers Association
- Lewis Clinical Award, University of Utah,
- Borchard Foundation Center on Law and Aging Fellow
- Spurgeon Fellow, University of Utah
- Clegg Award, Utah State Bar Association
- Fordham Award, University of Utah
- Magelby Award, University of Utah
- Marcus Scholar, University of Utah
- Matheson Scholar, University of Utah
- Shirlee Kahn Award, Washington University in St. Louis