Article Reinforces Efforts Of Maine CUs In Preventing Elder Financial Abuse

July 3, 2015

The efforts of Maine's credit union in helping protect Maine's seniors from financial abuse was once again highlighted as part of National Elder Abuse Awareness Day, which took place on June 15.  On that day, a column appeared in several daily newspapers in the state (including the Kennebec Journal and Morning Sentinel) that discussed this issue and some of the ways to help.  The column, written by Vanessa Madore, VP of Risk Management at Maine Savings FCU and a member of the Maine Council for Elder Abuse Prevention, shed light on these efforts including the leadership of credit unions on the issue of elder financial abuse for nearly two decades.

As the state with the oldest median population, elder financial abuse is a growing problem in Maine.  Madore highlighted the severity of this problem.  "Financial exploitation is among the most common forms of elder abuse. In fact, financial exploitation is self-reported more than emotional, physical and sexual abuse or neglect at a rate of 41 per 1,000 surveyed. There is a significant cost associated with financial exploitation, which robbed elders of an estimated $2.9 billion in 2009, the most recent year for which we have data."

In an effort to combat financial exploitation of the elderly, the Maine CU League was a founding member of a coalition that created the Senior$afe program, which is aimed at increasing awareness and safeguards about a growing problem in Maine.  Senior$afe is a collaborative project between Maine financial institutions, Maine Department of Professional and Financial Regulation and the Office of Aging and Disability Services. Senior$afe is an informative brochure, which was designed by Synergent Direct Marketing Services and the League, accompanied by training for frontline credit union staff and personnel at other financial institutions, that teaches Mainers about protecting their money and financial accounts from scams, exploitation and identity theft. This brochure provides the reader with resource contact numbers, assessing vulnerabilities and some quick tips on protecting their finances. This information is applicable to all ages, but has a focus on the seniors in our state.

Elise Baldacci, Director of Governmental Affairs for the League, serves on the Maine Elder Abuse Council, and called the problem of elder financial exploitation "a growing concern.  Identifying and reporting elder financial abuse can be difficult but efforts to increase awareness are making a difference, especially with the increased vigilance that I am hearing about happening at Maine credit unions."

The efforts of Maine's credit unions to help combat elder financial exploitation have gained national attention, especially from Senator Susan Collins, who Chairs the Senate Committee on Aging, which is exploring ways to deal with this issue nationally.  The League has provided examples of elder financial exploitation to Senator Collins and her staff as part of her materials.  "I am heartened to see what Maine credit unions are doing to help protect Maine's elderly, and appreciate your leadership," the Senator stated earlier this year at a meeting with your League and other credit union representatives in Washington, D.C.

"We all have the basic right to age with dignity and to do so with the assurance of our safety, whether it is physical, emotional, mental or financial. I want us all to promote a culture of loving community and our older Mainers. Many of our community members are already older adults and we all will be elders one day. The time to make a difference is now. Let's start treating our future selves and Maine's older adults with the dignity and love they deserve," stated Madore.