This will surprise no one.
If you have watched weekday afternoon commercials, you’ve seen advertisements for electric wheelchairs. Reverse mortgages. Medicare supplemental insurance. AARP benefits.
America is aging. The baby boomers are retiring. And the generation before them is living longer.
According to the United States Administration on Aging, in 2009 (the most recent year with relevant statistics) there were 39.6 million persons over 65 years of age in the country. That is 12.9 percent of the population.
The agency projects that by 2030 the number will grow to 72.1 million. That will be 19 percent of the population.
In Georgia there were 1,037,287 residents over 65. That was a 31.4 percent increase from 1999. In Florida during that same period the population over 65 grew only 16.4 percent.
All of this is good news. More of us are living long enough to become senior citizens.
But, it also underscores additional responsibilities for law enforcement and the courts.
Fayette County Probate Judge Ann Jackson has noticed disturbing instances of financial exploitation of the elderly. She has assumed a leadership role to stop it. Soon, she will hold a meeting among Fayette’s police chiefs, the sheriff and me to discuss our response. I would welcome similar meetings in the other counties of the circuit.
This past week prosecutors around the state took classes to satisfy the requirements of the Georgia Bar for continuing legal education. One of the sessions I attended was taught by Jeanne Canavan, a deputy chief assistant district attorney in DeKalb County. She prosecutes white collar crimes. And she doesn’t put up with criminals who cheat the elderly.
I admired her zeal and I learned a lot. She reminded us of a seldom-used statute that permits prosecutions of thieves that might have valid defenses to traditional theft laws. Maybe it’s time to dust off that law and lock up some creeps that hide behind powers of attorney to cheat the elderly.
Don’t misunderstand me. The elderly have the right to give gifts, even to strangers, if that is their clear-minded intent. I’m not advocating that we infringe upon freedoms or that we prosecute disputes that are truly civil in nature.
But, opportunistic thieves are targeting a very vulnerable and growing segment of Georgians. Those senior citizens deserve better than for us to sit on our hands and watch while criminals drain their life’s savings.
And I just wanted you to know that we’re taking aim to fire back.