Regulation, education and prevention help Ohioans live "Well Beyond 60"
How the Ohio Department of Commerce makes aging our business
June 2, 2016
By Jaqueline T. Williams, Director
Ohio Department of Commerce
Aging. It's everybody's business.
As the state of Ohio's primary regulatory agency, the Ohio Department of Commerce understands this as well as anybody. By issuing over 600,000 licenses, permits, registrations, and certifications each year in various professions and industries, Commerce touches a lot of lives every day. Commerce regulates financial institutions, securities professionals and products, real estate professionals and cable television. We also help oversee liquor permits, fire & building code enforcement, and the return of unclaimed funds to Ohioans.
Our mission is focused on safeguarding the citizens and visitors of Ohio, their property as well as their resources while ensuring reliable marketplaces conducive to business growth and prosperity. Golden Buckeyes, those over the age of 60, are often the most at-risk Ohioans. Therefore we must be extra vigilant where they are concerned.
Ohio has two and a half million residents that qualify for that distinction. And that population is growing more than 20 times faster than our overall population. This evolving demographic presents a new set of challenges when attempting to meet our elders' needs, challenges that the Department of Commerce must and will meet.
In the arena of fire and life safety, our Division of State Fire Marshal leads the way in keeping our aging population safe from the ever present dangers of fire. Whether it is the nursing home inspections carried out by our Code Enforcement Bureau, the firefighter training that takes place every day at our State Fire Academy or the fire safety messages carried throughout the state by our Fire Prevention Bureau, the Division of State Fire Marshal works tirelessly to protect the lives of older Ohioans.
As the old adage goes, 'An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.' This rings particularly true in the realm of fire safety. Our elders are at almost three times as high a risk to die in a fire as younger Ohioans. But there are some simple steps that older adults and their caregivers can take to stave off tragedy.
The first step is to conduct an assessment to determine the need for smoke alarms and identify any fire hazards in the home. Second, make sure the home is adequately equipped with working smoke alarms, including one on every level of the house and outside of every sleeping room. Next, develop a fire escape plan with two ways out and then practice it with older adults, their family members and caregivers. Finally, continue to follow-up to determine if alarms are still working and to address the evolving needs of our Golden Buckeyes. With these simple steps, we can all do our part in keeping elder Ohioans safe.
Another area where Commerce leads the way in protecting older Ohioans is in the prevention of elder financial abuse. Older Americans are the number one target of investment con artists. Additionally, financial planners engaged in abusive practices often seek out the elderly for their scams. Nationally, financial exploitation is the third most frequent form of abuse, after neglect and emotional abuse.
Adults over the age of 50 control 70% of the nation's wealth. Each year in Ohio millions of dollars are lost due to financial abuse of seniors, which threatens the wealth and prosperity of generations of families. Many of the cases investigated by the Division's Enforcement attorneys over the past year have involved senior victims.
Here are some tips to avoid being a target:
- Don't be a "courtesy victim." Con artists will not hesitate to exploit the good manners of a potential victim.
- Always stay in charge of your money. A con artist who wants your money will be more than happy to assure you that they can handle everything.
- Watch out for salespeople who prey on your fears. Con artists know that many older Ohioans worry that they will outlive their savings. Fear can cloud your good judgement.
- Monitor your investments and ask tough questions. Too many older Ohioans not only trust unscrupulous investment professionals or con artists to make decisions for them, but compound the problem by failing to keep an eye on their investments.
- Don't let embarrassment or fear keep you from reporting abuse. Some elder citizens have indicated that they are embarrassed by having been taken in by a con artist, and are therefore hesitant to report the abuse.
These are just some of the ways older Ohioans and their caregivers can protect themselves from the dangers of fire and financial abuse. I challenge you to go out and learn more. It's up to all of us to ensure the safety of our aging population and see to it that they have opportunities to grow, thrive and contribute.
Because after all, aging is everybody's business.
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