Publication date: 1 March 2016
In our fast-changing world, the elderly are often left behind. As they struggle to keep pace with new technology, trends and terminology, the extra effort they sometimes need to make is not always appreciated.
Finances can be complex for us all, regardless of age. Even if the financial experience of older people can mature into wisdom, this is an area of constant change which often requires time and energy to grasp. As the years go by, it is understandable if the elderly run out of steam and leave their financial management in the hands of others, often their relatives. This, however, is far from ideal, as it does not cater for those who do not have a family or who want to remain self-sufficient.
These days, the vulnerability of older people in terms of their finances is not unnoticed: according to research conducted by the National Centre for the Protection of Older People (NCPOP) in Ireland, Financial abuse of older people: A review, the term ‘elder abuse’ – sexual, psychological, neglect and discriminatory abuse – came into common use in the late 1970s. It was not until 2002 that the World Health Organisation defined elder financial abuse as: ‘the illegal or improper exploitation or use of funds or other resources of the older person’. This real problem, with a clear definition, could be prevented with better financial education at all stages of life.
Similarly, Help The Aged, an NGO dedicated to the elderly in the UK, is running campaigns of support in many spheres of their lives. Under their “Money matters” section, they provide help with such areas as pensions, legal advice, scams and frauds, and income and taxes. Equally, they published a report entitled The Financial Abuse of Older People where they state that prevention is better than cure by quoting the Health Committee Inquiry on Elder Abuse: “We call for mandatory training in the recognition, reporting and treatment of elder abuse for those professionals working and caring for older people.”
Academics and policy-makers agree that more measures are needed to tackle elder financial abuse, but there is no consensus on the best way to proceed. As is often the case with many other forms of abuse, knowledge and information can be the key to prevention. Yet again, the answer lies with financial education.