“There is a need to raise financial awareness among senior citizens”
May 3, 2010
Susan B Somers, General Secretary of the International Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse, Inc (INPEA) highlighted some financial issues that the elderly face in an interaction with other NGOs working for senior citizens. The interaction was organised by Silver Innings and Moneylife Foundation.
“There is a need to raise financial awareness among senior citizens, especially women. They do not understand wills, tax issues and transfers. This leaves them completely vulnerable to financial issues,” said Somers who is also United Nations NGO Coordinator for INPEA. She is associated with the Somers Law Firm, New York.
Highlighting instances of financial exploitation in the United States, she said, “There have been various cases of financial exploitation of the elderly like fraudulent selling of expensive security systems under the pretext of safety or charging exorbitant fees for simple day-to-day jobs like repairing a car.”
Among other financial exploitation cases were repeated mis-selling of insurance policies to the elderly. “There were insurance agents or brokers, who convinced the elderly to flip their current insurance policy with another one, stating that the existing was no more useful to them. In reality, every time the elderly person changed his insurance policy the broker earned a commission. It was in the benefit of the broker and the not the elderly person,” stated Ms Somers.
While the elderly are highly susceptible and gullible to financial exploitation at the hands of their own family members and relatives, certain groups also reportedly took advantage of the same. “There was a rampant selling of living trusts which promised wealth protection for the elderly from the Government, from paying taxes, from family and relatives. This was in the form of a document. They charged a huge amount of fees for this document. Most times, one did not even need such a protection,” Ms Somers said.
On being asked on what steps have been taken or should be taken to address such issues which are equally applicable to Indian senior citizens, she said, “The government should issue information. To take reverse mortgage as an example, the government should provide information stating these are the good points about the product and these are the bad points of the product, this helps the senior citizen take an informed decision.”
“Another significant step taken in the US was a law stating a cooling-in period of three days. If the seller or agent approaches the elderly, he cannot be forced to sign or agree to buy the product or service right away, a cooling-in period of three days has to be practised. This avoids the elderly from taking any hasty decision while under pressure,” she added.