A new collaboration of Philadelphia government agencies and nonprofits has been formed to prevent financial exploitation of elderly people.
Through a $375,000 grant over three years from the Department of Justice, the DA’s office will assemble the Elder Abuse Multidisciplinary Team: a network of agencies each with its own specialty when it comes to assisting older people. The group includes the Penn Memory Center, the SeniorLAW Center, the Center for Advocacy for the Rights and Interests of Elderly People, and the Philadelphia Corporation for Aging.
“Seniors are vulnerable for a number of reasons,” said Assistant District Attorney Alex Blumenthal of the DA’s Elder Justice Unit. “First, they have money. They have regular income, often accumulated assets, and that makes them a target. They can also suffer from cognitive impairment, and that will feed their isolation.”
“These cases present complex problems that no single agency can deal with by themselves,” he added.
Shari Gilmore of the Philadelphia Corporation for Aging said the new Elder Abuse team can combat the recent uptick in the exploitation of elderly people.
“This new crucial step in addressing elder abuse after three years of the pandemic is drastically needed as PCA has seen an increase, especially in financial exploitation of elder abuse cases,” she said. “PCA wholeheartedly supports this team’s mission.”
The DOJ grant has allowed the DA’s office to hire a team coordinator, Sarena Issenberg, a social worker formerly with the Lutheran Settlement House.
“It can often be a little frustrating as a social worker,” said Issenberg. “There are limits to our profession and to the systems that we’re involved in.”
“To have something like this multidisciplinary team, where we are not stymied by individual and systemic efforts but we actually have a structure where we can work collaboratively, is really going to have a profound impact on elder victims’ experiences,” she said. “And our ability to investigate and prosecute elder abuse cases.”
According to the National Council on Aging, 1 in 10 elderly people has been victims of financial or material exploitation, at a cost of $36.5 billion annually.