There is no denying that the United States is becoming an increasingly aging nation—due mostly to the fact that baby boomers—our second-largest generation ever—are currently spanning the ages of mid-fifties to early-seventies. Additionally, the U.S. Census Bureau expects that the 65-and-older population will nearly double in a span of about 30 years, increasing from 43.1 million to 83.7 million.
As the number of older citizens grows in the U.S., so does the likelihood of abuse. The extent of such abuse can range from financial exploitation or theft of assets to bodily injury at the hands of a caregiver. Some states recognize such threats and have implemented legislation to protect older adults. For instance, Pennsylvania requires that a bank must report any instance of significant assets of an older (60 years of age or above) individual being withdrawn by a newly appointed co-owner or power of attorney agent. In the state of Ohio, statutory law mandates that certain individuals (i.e. doctors, lawyers, pharmacists and social workers) act as reporters of elder abuse, neglect or exploitation as long as there is “reasonable cause to believe” such has occurred.
It’s important to note that each state has its own definitions of and law regarding elder abuse and neglect, thus laws and other forms of protective legislation vary from state to state as well. According to a recent study by WalletHub, not all states are equal when it comes to elder abuse prevention and recourse.
The study evaluated all 50 states and the District of Columbia in regards to 11 weighted metrics that were categorized into three key focus areas as they pertain to occurrences of elder abuse: prevalence, resources and protection. Depending on how each state performed across all 11 points, an overall score was then determined that ranked the state as compared to others. States were also assigned a rank for each of the three focus areas, offering a richer understanding of how they compare. For instance, the District of Columbia ranked second overall, but they actually ranked 44th in regard to “protection”—making that an obvious area for improvement for the District.
Interestingly, the data showed that the states with the best or worst protection for elders, showed very little pattern in regard to region, political leanings or affluence. For instance, the state of California ranked the worst (at number 51) while Iowa ranked 5th. Nevada and Arizona ranked 1st and 3rd respectively while New Jersey joined California near the bottom at number 49. Retiree-filled Florida ranked just below the midpoint at number 30 with Colorado claiming the median 25th spot.
The National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA) says that awareness is the first step to preventing such abuse. They advocate following a simple, four-step plan that includes planning for your future; being cautious when it comes to money matters; staying connected with a network of family, friends and neighbors; and reporting any suspected incidents of abuse or neglect to authorities.