Canada is getting older, and with an aging population, comes more people looking to prey on seniors.
In September 2016, Statistics Canada reported that more than 15 per cent of Canada’s population was over 65; it was 7.6 per cent in 1960.
In fact, people aged 85 years and over now make up the fastest growing age group in Canada — this portion of the population grew by 127 per cent between 1993 and 2013.
In recognition of World Elder Abuse Awareness Day on June 15, The Society of Notaries Public of B.C. is bringing attention to the often hidden but prevalent problem of older people being physically, emotionally, or financially abused at the hands of strangers, acquaintances and even family members.
Elder abuse is a significant concern in B.C. where 18.3 percent of the province’s population is 65 or older, compared to the national average of 16.9 percent.
Seven of the 10 Canadian municipalities with the largest share of people over age 85 are in B.C..
B.C. notaries offer these tips to seniors:
Create a Power of Attorney
The person with Power of Attorney — a designation to manage finances and legal affairs—should be well-known, trustworthy and accountable to the older adult, and involve that person in the decision-making process. In cases of financial abuse, this does not happen. A B.C. notary can help clarify and designate the attorney’s roles and responsibilities.
Create a representation agreement
In cases where a senior cannot make a Power of Attorney, he or she may still be capable of making a special representation agreement, called a Section 7 Agreement. This type of agreement provides a designated individual with authority that typically includes minor and major health care, personal care and living arrangements, but can also include legal affairs and routine management of financial affairs.
Set up a joint bank account
A joint bank account for a senior and a trusted family member or close friend provides a second set of eyes monitoring for any suspicious transactions, such as large cash withdrawals that could occur as a result of a scam or fraud. Seek advice first from a notary or other legal counsel because this “joint tenancy” could unintentionally completely alter the individual’s estate plan.
Financial abuse includes loans to family or friends that aren’t paid back, forging a signature on documents, making unauthorized withdrawals from the senior’s bank account or unauthorized charges on their credit card, and getting an older person to sign a Will or Power of Attorney through deception or coercion. This situation may be prevented through assigning a trusted person with Power of Attorney.
If you have concerns about an isolated elderly person living alone and at risk, or you believe that an attorney or representative is misusing a Power of Attorney, you can report this to the Office of the Public Guardian and Trustee.
There are several resources available to help seniors suffering from physical, emotional or financial abuse. If you believe fraud is happening, call the local police.
In B.C., there are also numerous agencies that provide support – the Community Response Network in each community has a list of local agencies that can help, depending on the nature of the abuse.