SAINT JOHN (GNB) – To mark World Elder Abuse Awareness Day on June 15, the Financial and Consumer Services Commission is encouraging New Brunswickers to be aware of and report financial abuse affecting the province’s growing senior population.

Census data released in May indicates New Brunswick is tied with Nova Scotia for having the highest percentage of people over the age of 65 at 19.9 per cent.

“As part of our enforcement initiatives, we hear devastating accounts of seniors who were victims of financial abuse,” said Marissa Sollows, senior education co-ordinator for the commission. “With a growing senior population, we need to work together as a community and be even more vigilant about protecting ourselves and the seniors in our lives.”

The commission is one of many organizations recognizing and supporting the international effort against elder abuse in all its forms. According to the federal government, the most common form of elder abuse in Canada is financial abuse.

Results of the commission’s latest provincial awareness survey indicate that:

  • 88 per cent of people polled think financial abuse of seniors is an issue;
  • 25 per cent reported that they personally know a senior who has (or may have) been a victim of financial abuse; however
  • only 22 per cent of those who knew or suspected abuse reported it.

As individuals age, they become more dependent on others, making them more vulnerable to financial abuse. Older victims of financial abuse, especially those on a fixed income, are especially at risk because if they lose all or part of their life savings they have less time to recover their financial stability.

The effects of financial abuse frequently go well beyond the pocketbook. It can lead to social isolation, depression, anxiety and other negative health effects.

“Having conversations with the seniors in our lives is important in helping to protect them,” Sollows said. “World Elder Abuse Awareness Day is an opportunity for all New Brunswickers to speak up about financial abuse, end the stigma surrounding this issue, and report when they suspect abuse is happening with someone they know or love.”

Fears of age discrimination and loss of independence tend to keep seniors from speaking up when they are being abused. They may be afraid or worried about the consequences of reporting and about losing valued relationships with close friends, family members or primary care givers. As a result, financial abuse of seniors is called the invisible crime because it often goes unreported.

“If you are concerned that you or someone you care about is a victim, or at risk of becoming a victim of financial abuse, visit the Financial and Consumer Services Commission’s website to access its resources, tools and information,” Sollows said. “The best way for New Brunswickers to protect themselves is to be informed.”

The commission is looking forward to the results of independent research being done on the financial abuse of seniors in New Brunswick by a University of New Brunswick doctoral research student, Stephany Peterson. Information collected will become part of her dissertation. She will kick-off a provincewide tour of public information sessions at 10:30 a.m on June 15 at the Market Square Atrium in Saint John. More information is available at stephany.peterson@unb.ca.

The Financial and Consumer Services Commission works with various departments and organizations, including the Aging Secretariat of the Department of Social Development and the Public Legal Education and Information Service of New Brunswick, to distribute brochures and conduct presentations across the province. The brochures, listed below, provide information on the signs of financial abuse and on how to start conversations on money. The commission also conducts free presentations on a variety of topics related to frauds and scams, proactive estate planning, investing, youth money management and more.

Resources:

The Financial and Consumer Services Commission has the mandate to protect consumers and enhance public confidence in the financial and consumer marketplace through the provision of regulatory and educational services. It is responsible for the administration and enforcement of provincial legislation that regulates the following sectors: securities, insurance, pensions, credit unions, trust and loan companies, co-operatives, and a wide range of other consumer legislation. It is funded by the regulatory fees and assessments paid by the regulated sectors.