Department of Justice Seal

Remarks of

Acting Associate Attorney General Daniel Marcus

"Our Aging Population: Promoting Empowerment, Preventing Victimization, and Implementing Coordinated Solutions"

The Washington Monarch Hotel
October 30, 2000
8:30 a.m.

Thank you, Mary Lou, and good morning everyone. I'm very pleased to join in welcoming you all to this symposium. I want to thank the Department of Health and Human Services for co-hosting this important event. And I want to thank all of you for coming here to discuss how the criminal justice and social service communities can work together to prevent victimization of our older citizens and to provide interventions to empower them to live safe and full lives. [I'm really pleased that we've been joined by a number of state attorneys general and directors of the units on aging.]

As I'm sure you've seen from the agenda, we have a very busy schedule today. But I think that, by the end of today's session, we'll all have a better understanding of the scope of elder victimization. And you'll have some information that will help you begin to map out what steps you need to take in your own communities to better address this issue.

We know, for example, that while the elderly are less likely than other age groups to experience a violent crime, their lives are more likely to be affected by fear of crime. We know that even minor incidents can be debilitating for older Americans. We know that the elderly experience high rates of abuse and neglect both at home and in institutions. And we know that they're often the targets of fraud. We hear all too frequently of seniors who have lost their life savings to fast talking con artists.

We also know that crime against older Americans is vastly under-reported. And we know that these problems are not going away. The number of Americans over 65 will more than double in the next 30 years to 70 million.

At the Justice Department, the Attorney General has made elder justice a priority. She has directed United States Attorneys to step up enforcement efforts. We've increased prosecutions of health care and consumer fraud, as well as civil rights violations.

Under our Nursing Home Initiative headed by--M.T. Connolly-- we're working on a number of fronts to protect vulnerable nursing home residents. Through the Office of Justice Programs, we support a wide range of programs to prevent crime against the elderly and to improve efforts at the state and local levels to combat fraud against older Americans.

For example, we support Triad programs across the country. I know many of you are familiar with this effort to prevent elder abuse and assist victims. There are now over 700 Triad programs in 46 states, Canada, and England.

We also sponsor training and technical assistance to help state and local law enforcement officials improve investigations and prosecutions of telemarketing and home improvement fraud targeted at seniors. And we're working with a number of national organizations to educate the public about these crimes.

In addition, we've sponsored a number of discussions, such as this, to explore what more can be done at the federal, state, and local levels to address elder victimization. Just two weeks ago, I participated in a forum we held to look at medical forensic issues in elder abuse and neglect. We brought together representatives from the medical, mental health, law enforcement, and social service fields as well as experts from federal, state, and local agencies to discuss the need for more research in this area and to look at some creative, multi-disciplinary responses that have been developed to address the problem of elder abuse and neglect.

On the social services side, the Department of Health and Human Services has undertaken a comprehensive effort to combat elder victimization. HHS has made significant reforms to protect the most vulnerable of our older citizens from poor quality of care in nursing homes. The initiative "Who Pays? You Pay" has educated hundreds of thousands of Medicare beneficiaries about fraud, waste and abuse in the Medicare system. And the Administration on Aging through its ombudsman program and its elder abuse prevention services has helped to protect the rights of older people living in the community and in nursing homes.

As a result of these and other efforts, the public is now more aware of the problem of elder victimization. Like domestic violence and child abuse, it's an issue that's finally "come out of the closet."

But we still have a long way to go to ensure a comprehensive, coordinated approach to preventing elder abuse and to providing effective interventions. We know that we've got to work together the public safety and social services communities to develop a continuum of services for seniors.

I want to thank you for your commitment to this effort and for all you are doing to prevent and respond to elder abuse and neglect. I look forward to hearing the results of your discussions here. Thank you very much.