With the highest percentage of seniors in the country New Brunswick could be experiencing a high level of financial elder abuse, a topic that one researcher at the University of New Brunswick is now digging deeper into.
Financial elder abuse comes in a variety of forms such as investment fraud, misuse of funds or theft and can be committed by strangers, new acquaintances and even family members.
Doctoral research student Stephany Peterson has studied the subject at length though most of the data was compiled in the United States.
Now, coinciding with World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, she is starting a province wide tour of public information sessions to gather homegrown data.
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“To date what we’ve been able to sufficiently establish from the field is that the abuse is occurring and it’s occurring at an increasing rate as we experience that population growth,” explained Peterson.”As the demography of both Canada and New Brunswick shifts so that we have a greater senior population than any other demographic, it’s a growing and prevalent concern.”
Peterson hopes her research will equip experts with the necessary tools to stop elder financial abuse from happening.
“This is a newer form of abuse relative to other types of social constructs,” Peterson explained. “So when we look at this, we can take a page from the other types of abuse and the research that’s been done with those to focus not necessarily on what’s occurring in the stages afterward but to look at mitigation, prevention.
“We have some great resources that are available, right here in the province through a variety of different stakeholders.”
The Financial and Consumer Services Commission of New Brunswick has been working to keep seniors and their money safe through education.
FCNB says a recent study of New Brunswickers found that 25 per cent reported knowing a senior who has or may have been the victim of financial abuse.
Marissa Sollows, FCNB’s senior education coordinator, warns seniors that many of the dangers can seem harmless and how to protect themselves from an unwanted situation.
“Recognizing risk becomes more difficult as we get older,” Sollows explained. “So just kind of keeping in check these new people that are coming into your life, any new requests or sales pitches or investment opportunities they’re presenting you with, just to be vigilant for some of those types of situations.”
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As it’s been called the least reported form of abuse, FCNB wants the public to be aware of what the warning signs are and not be afraid to step in and contact authorities in the event they suspect someone is committing elder abuse against someone they know.
“If there’s somebody new that all of a sudden has a real interest in their finances or a real interest in helping out,” she said. “Make sure that they’re there with the right intentions.”