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Saturday, January 18, 2014

We Should Know Better Than to Stereotype Seniors

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It was widely reported today that federal and state regulators have shut down a multimillion-dollar scam targeting seniors.  Bravo!!! That is awesome news.  What left me shaking my head was this comment offered by the Federal Trade Commission regional director:  "You call enough older consumers and you will find someone with dementia or Alzheimer's.  These people knew they were dealing with people who weren't all there and they took their money."  Really?  Did you just say that aloud? Seniors were targeted for the same reasons that seniors are always targeted;  They have resources, strong credit ratings, live alone and are generally too trusting. By the way, do you know why they are too trusting?  It's because they are trustworthy. That's not quite the same as because they are demented now is it? This comment was as stereotypical as it gets.  One might also argue that it hinged on the verge of victim blaming but we will save that for another discussion.  The report goes on to say that the scammers operated under more than a dozen corporate names, employed more than 100 people and "appeared organized specifically to evade law enforcement."  Read the full story here.  In fact, the Better Business Bureau warned consumers about the scam six months ago, so it took the police at least that long to shut it down. Read full story here. .  That being said, I am hoping this was indeed a sophisticated operation that did not need to rely on seniors suffering with dementia and Alzheimer's to be successful.  

Ageism has been defined as the tendency to regard older people as debilitated or unworthy of attention.  It also includes stereotyping and discrimination based on age.  Popular messages about aging lead to disrespectful behavior towards seniors and the marginalization of seniors.  All seniors are not the same.  Moreover, most seniors are mentally and physically capable with much to offer.  Please stop assuming you know everything there is to know about a person based on their age.