Age Concern addresses abuse of elderly

IAIN SCOTT
Last updated 12:00 13/06/2014

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A Palmerston North pensioner was bullied into overdrawing her account, missing mortgage and bill payments as a result.

Age Concern New Zealand's social worker in Palmerston North, Robyn Baker, said this was not uncommon for older people. The woman spoke ahead of World Elder Abuse Awareness Day on Sunday.

She said her trouble began when a salesman at her shopping centre offered a product sample. She replied she had used the product.

"Of course that was the wrong thing basically, because they said ‘come in, come in', and talked. They are very clever and very good at their job and they are lovely.

"Basically I just didn't have the strength or the guts or whatever you need to say no to them. And they said to me ‘try this' and ‘try that' and ‘what do you think?' "

The staff continued pressing her to use her card after she said it would result in an overdraft.

"I don't know how many times I said that but they said just try it and see if it goes through. Like an idiot, I gave them my card and yes, it went through, and it continued to go through because I still couldn't say no to them until it got up to $1800 worth of overdraft."

Bills, including mortgage repayments and insurance premiums, went unpaid as a result.

She turned to Age Concern at her doctor's urging.

Baker said many people saw older adults as an opportunity for a sale because they were vulnerable.

Cases were often unreported because victims felt ashamed, thinking they were to blame. "Fortunately for us we've worked together and the particular company have returned all her money, which clarifies their admission to guilt."

However, many in similar circumstances had lost all their money.

She said elder abuse was the most hidden type of abuse.

"It's the one that we least hear about because nobody wants to talk about it."

Credit union NZCU Baywide chief executive Gavin Earle said with more than $4.1 million spent in pokie machines in Palmerston North and Dannevirke in just three months last year, there were many instances of people using their parents as a source of gambling money.

"We all need to become more vigilant and investigate unusual behaviour, such as a young person accompanying their older relative to the bank to withdraw large sums of money, or withdrawing money on a regular basis from an account they have access to.

"We owe it to our older people."

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- Manawatu Standard

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