Organization wants to help before, not after, seniors are scammed
Elders in Action advocates wish seniors would call the organization before making a major purchase or hiring a contractor rather than wait until after the transaction has gone awry and then ask for help.
Elders in Action is a non-profit organization in the tri-county area that provides a powerful voice for seniors by certifying Elder Friendly businesses and providing personal advocate services and a speakers bureau.
"We work with people who have problems and help solve them," said Vickie Hersen, executive director of Elders in Action, pointing out that from July 1, 2009, to June 30, 2010, it recouped $357,000 that had been illegally or unethically taken from seniors.
"We offer a really unique program for people 60 and older," she said. "Our speakers bureau provides people to come and talk to groups about our services, and the businesses in our directory have been evaluated by seniors themselves.
"We want to break down any issue and resolve it. It can be daunting to make that phone call to complain about a service, so we do that, and we also file letters with the state attorney general.
"Whatever your problem, I want to encourage people to call us, because sometimes we can get their money back."
The organization also provides interactive videos through its "Master of Aging Well" series; it will evaluate sites to determine if they offer accessibility to everyone; and it works to make sure seniors have access to reading materials in 14-point type.
One of Elders in Action's personal advocates who also is part of the speakers bureau is Dennis Frantz, who lives in King City.
"I give talks at the periodic newcomers meetings held in King City," Frantz said. "Seniors work hard all their lives to accumulate assets, and they grew up trusting people. Unfortunately, we usually get involved with their cases after there is a problem, not before.
"My advice is if you get an offer, run it by someone," said Frantz, who received 36 hours of training before becoming a personal advocate. "People should ask questions first before committing funds. I think some people make a full-time profession of taking other people's money.
"We volunteers handle one case at a time, and they can take a few days up to several weeks to resolve. I have access to legal advice, and our office has great resources. When a case is all over, I write a report."
Sometimes the problem is that people don't want to talk about being scammed and will try to keep it secret from everyone, including family members
"People are so desperate that they will do anything," said Frantz, who handles about five cases a year. "They don't want their relatives to know. They work to maintain a perception of credibility, even with their bank. We handle several hundred cases each year.
"You try to help, and you do what you can do. There is personal satisfaction when a case is resolved successfully, but it also can be frustrating. Some people you just can't help, and you have to accept that, and the victim does too. There is no magic cure."
Frantz calls Elders in Action "a great organization."
He added, "I'm proud to be part of it. It's easy to get passionate about this subject."
King City City Hall has copies available to the public of Elders in Action's 2011 Certified Elder Friendly Business Directory.
Elders in Action can be reached at 503-235-5474; the fax number is 503-595-7599, and volunteers are needed for all of its programs.