Posted: Saturday 1st October 2016
The International Day of Older Persons is observed on October 1 each year.
On December 14, 1990 the United Nations General Assembly voted to establish October 1 as the International Day of Older Persons, and since that time countries around the globe have used this day to celebrate our senior community and to raise awareness of the challenges faced in our elder years.
As a country, the UK has a swiftly aging population. Although statistics can be rather uninspiring, it is remarkable to reflect upon the fact that in the last decade, the number of centenarians (people living to 100-years) has increased by 72% to more than 14,500 in the UK, with 780 people aged 105-years or older!
These headline numbers catch the imagination, but still represent a relatively small percentage of our overall population (approximately the same as the North East Somerset town of Keynsham), however, there are now more than 500,000 people in the UK who have reached their 90th birthday and 10-million people who are 65-years or older making up 20% of the total UK population.
Although we are living longer, later life brings with it increased challenges and vulnerabilities for elder citizens that our society is still attempting to understand and safely manage. For instance, there are 850,000 people over 65 living with some form of dementia, with many more undiagnosed and coping with their illness alone. There are 127,000 people living with Parkinson’s disease in the UK who suffer some form of mobility reduction and these are just two of the more common debilitating health issues that affect citizens in later life.
Sadly there are a growing number of criminals who seek to take advantage of our senior community and exploit the frailty that comes with older age to steal and deceive from some of our most vulnerable citizens. I’m sure we have all been sickened by the accounts of elder victims who have been conned out of vast amounts of money or family heirlooms by unscrupulous criminals who have used deception or artifice to con and scam people by way of scam letters, e-mails, telephone calls or even on their own doorsteps.
We are only beginning to understand the true extent of these crimes upon our senior community, as it remains one of the most under reported crime-types that we record. In 2015, the respected national charity Age UK carried out a fraud survey of people over 65-years. Remarkably 53% of our elders identified that they had been deceived by a scam, or had been targeted but had not been taken in by the deception. Senior fraud is one of the most swiftly growing crime types and is set to continue to increase as we continue to live for longer with increasing instances of dementia and ill-health.
One of the things that is most apparent about senior deception crime, is that due to systemic underreporting by the victim cohort, we are unlikely to ever detect our way out of this problem. The most effective method of overcoming the situation is crime prevention through victim education.
In Avon and Somerset we have been fortunate to be aided in this endeavour by the services of the all-volunteer Senior Citizen Liaison Team (SCLT), which has been operating within our organisation since 2009. The team is made up of a small number of volunteers, most of whom are serving police officers and staff, who give up a small amount of their valuable spare time to give themed, senior safety presentations to older adult groups throughout the Avon and Somerset area. Our usual clients are groups such as Rotary, Probus, Women’s Institute and the University of the Third Age (U3A) to name but a small few.
On a personal level, I find it a very enriching experience to spend the evening or afternoon with a lively group of seniors and to have the opportunity to share with them ideas to avoid the many scams and cons which they are likely to encounter on the doorstep, or via e-mails/telephone or letter. I usually come away wondering if I gained more from the experience than them, such are the great conversations and shared experiences that take place during our visits.
The SCLT is presently seeking volunteers who may also be interested in joining the small team of presenters who operate throughout the Force area. Full training is given and volunteers are provided with all the equipment required to give effective presentations to groups of all sizes (laptop, projector, speakers, etc.) You will need confidence in public speaking (or a desire to develop skills in this area) and the ability to travel to locations where the presentations take place – although as a registered Police Staff Volunteer (PSV), all mileage can be claimed back.
The team was fortunate to be awarded the Lord Ferrer’s Award (national PSV Team of the Year) in 2015 and the Birthday Honours List of 2015 brought the surprise bestowal of the Queens Award for Voluntary Service (known officially as the ‘MBE for Teams’). So it is great to know that the work our volunteers are doing to keep seniors safe in Avon and Somerset, has been recognised as best practice throughout the UK.
If you are interested in joining the SCLT, why not have a look at our website www.sclt.us or give me a call. The commitment is very modest, with most volunteers giving between two-to-four presentations a month, dependent upon the demand from our clients, but it is certainly not onerous and can really help the presenters develop personal skills in areas that can assist their careers, as well as doing some great work within the community of course.
Click here to find out more from SCLT volunteer PC Jon Williams talking about why he was motivated to make a difference and volunteer.
As Older Persons Day looms on the 1st October 2016, it is worth remembering that our senior community is a growing group and if we are lucky, it will be a demographic that we will all belong to one day. So seize the moment and think how you could make a difference to the elders in your life.
Thanks for reading.
Police Support Volunteer 72185
Detective Sergeant 3359 – Staff Officer to the Police and Crime Commissioner