Ontario's senior population is growing at a rapid rate. As the "baby boomers" (born between 1946-1965) age, the seniors population is expected to reach 6.7 million in 2021 and 9.2 million in 2041 (nearly one in four Canadians). In fact, the growth of the seniors population will account for close to half of the growth of the overall Canadian population in the next four decades. As a result of these staggering statistics, the OPP established a Seniors Assistance Team Coordinator to deal with issues that will arise surrounding this growth.
The purpose of the Seniors Assistance Team is to research and monitor crime trends with respect to the impact of seniors/elder abuse and vulnerable persons' activity in Ontario in order to develop community education, referral to resources, police training as well as operational strategies to lessen the impact of victimization.
Abuse of Older Adults
There are many variations of the definition of abuse of older adults (commonly referred to as elder abuse) but basically it means "any action or inaction by any person which causes harm or threatens to cause harm to an older adult". The abuse may be caused by a family member, friend, a caregiver, a staff member of a care facility or anyone upon whom the older person relies on for their basic needs or services. Harm can mean any physical abuse (includes sexual assault), psychological abuse, financial abuse or neglect.
Most crimes to which seniors fall victim are non-violent in nature. In fact, financial abuse is the most common type of abuse perpetrated against seniors. Listed below are some examples.
Telephone and Online Scams
The telephone and computer are great tools that con artists use to scam seniors. Con artists prey on the fact that seniors are too nice for their own good and are hesitant to say no to someone. Remember, if something sounds too good to be true, then it probably is. For more information visit the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre web site.
Home Improvement Scams
Beware of persons showing up unannounced at your door requesting your business with regards to home improvements. They will be aggressive in their sales pitch! Contact the Better Business Bureau; use personal references or the Yellow Pages to arrange for home repairs when you’re ready for them to be done! Click here to view the Consumer Protection Act.
What is identity theft? Basically it is when someone 'steals' your identity without your knowledge and then uses your personal information to commit a crime. This can be accomplished when someone uses your name, your Social Insurance Number (SIN), your credit card number or any other piece of personal information.
Bank Cards and ATM's
There is a growing trend towards bank card fraud. As we age, there is a need to sometimes rely on others for assistance. A current trend has the senior handing out his/her bank card and PIN # (Personal Identification Number). Assure you can rely on a person before handing over your PIN #.
Power of Attorney
A power of attorney gives someone else the authority to act on your behalf. In Ontario, the Substitute Decisions Act sets out the law about the two types of power of attorney that can be used if you become mentally incapable: a power of attorney for personal care and a continuing power of attorney for property. Virtually anyone over the age of 18, who is not being paid to provide a service to you, can be designated as your attorney. It doesn't have to be an actual lawyer. As long as you are still mentally capable of doing so, the person appointed as your power of attorney can be changed at any time.
A power of attorney for personal care allows your attorney to make decisions for you with regards to your health care, nutrition, clothing, shelter, safety and personal hygiene once you become mentally incapable of making those decisions for yourself.
A continuing power of attorney for property allows your attorney to make financial and other property decisions for you. The Continuing Power of Attorney becomes effective immediately once it is signed unless it is worded in such a way that indicates the attorney will only have the authority to act once you have been found mentally incapable of managing your property/finances.
For further information on Frequently Asked Questions, visit Advocacy Centre for the Elderly (ACE) website and/or the Ontario - Ministry of Attorney General website.
People tend to feel more secure in their own homes. It is important to take a few extra minutes to make sure you are as safe as possible. Practice the following crime prevention tips and you'll make yourself even safer than you thought you already were.
- Always keep your doors and windows locked; even when at home,
- Install a wide angle peephole in your front door,
- Ask for proper identification from delivery-men or strangers - don't feel intimidated into opening your door,
- When away from home, make sure your house looks and sounds occupied, and
- If a stranger shows up at your door looking to use your phone - talk to them through your locked door and offer to place the call for them.
Older drivers still enjoy the use of their vehicles and are very respectful of the rules of the road. However, we must remember that, as we age, our reflexes, vision and hearing may not be as efficient as they were when we were younger. We must all recognize our own limitations and sometimes plan ahead to avoid putting ourselves in precarious situations for example, driving at night or in busy traffic or someday, not driving any longer. The Ministry of Transportation web site provides more information.
For information on Healthy Living for Seniors visit the http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/hl-vs/seniors-aines/index-eng.php web site.
For more information contact the Crime Prevention Team or (705) 329-7680