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Why Do Older Adults Become Victims of Fraud

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There are currently over 480 million senior citizens around the globe.

Have you ever wondered why financial fraud is so prevalent within the senior community? Why are we more worried about our parents being swindled out of their money than we are ourselves?

Older adults are less able to spot people with untrustworthy faces, which may help explain why they're more likely to be victims of fraud, according to new research.

Older adults have reduced activity in a brain region called the anterior insula, which is linked to perception, motor control, self-awareness, cognitive functioning, and interpersonal experience. and is important for discerning untrustworthy faces, the researchers from the University of California, Los Angeles, found.
"The older adults do not have as strong an anterior insula early warning signal; their brains are not saying, 'Be wary,' as the brains of the younger adults are," researcher Shelley Taylor, a psychology professor and senior author of the research, said in a UCLA news release.

Shelly Taylor’s team conducted two studies. One found that 119 older adults (aged 55 to 84, with an average age of 68) and 24 younger adults (average age 23) had similar reactions to pictures of trustworthy and neutral faces. But compared to younger adults, older adults were more likely to regard untrustworthy faces as trustworthy and approachable.

In the second study, brain scans were conducted while older adults (aged 55 to 80 with an average age of 66) and younger adults (average age 33) looked at pictures of faces. The younger adults showed anterior insula activation both when rating the photos and especially when viewing untrustworthy faces. In contrast, the older adults showed little activation in that brain region.

"We wanted to find out whether there are differences in how the brain reacts to these faces, and the answer is: Yes, there are," Shelley Taylor, a psychology professor and senior author of the research, said in a UCLA news release.

"We found a strong anterior insula response both to the task of rating trustworthiness and also to the untrustworthy faces among the younger adults — but the response is much more muted among the older adults," Taylor said.

What makes a face untrustworthy? "The smile is insincere, the eye contact is off," said Taylor, whose own father and aunt both lost money in financial scams. The findings were published Dec. 3 in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

What can be done to help with this growing financial fraud problem? Many seniors don't have medical needs, they need that companionship, because many seniors are lonely or isolated with no immediate social outlet to have someone to check in on them.

“Are you constantly worrying about my parent living alone. A basic service call can become a complete worry if you can't be present. A simple estimate to replace one circuit breaker can turn into a thousand dollar estimate to replace an entire electrical panel,” says Denise White, a 52 year old full time teacher. She says that doesn't alleviate the worry entirely. There are phone calls, email scams and people coming to her mom’s door that cause constant worry.

In home care services can help every step of the way with your loved ones care. Services can be as simple as tidying up the house for seniors or preparing a few meals straight through to dressing wounds and helping with health concerns." There are also services available to drive seniors to and from doctor appointments, errands and even for recreational purposes. The point of home care is to allow seniors to live in their homes as long as they want to.

That’s where home care steps in. Caring companionship lends a listening ear, a caring word, and a friendly smile. And they’ll help get your loved one out and about and enjoy life. Services can be as simple as tidying up the house for seniors or preparing a few meals straight through to dressing wounds and helping with health concerns. There are also services available to drive seniors to and from doctor appointments, errands and even for recreational purposes.

The point of home care is to allow seniors to live in their homes safely as long as they want to.

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