Maintaining independence at all costs sometimes makes older people "our own worst enemies," former Minnesota Attorney General Hubert "Skip" Humphrey told a group of advocates for the aged Friday.
Humphrey, who was named in October to head of the new Office of Older Americans within the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, spoke in St. Paul, giving a preview of his new job.
Sometimes, he said, the aged need to accept help so they can maintain overall independence longer.
"I'm a young 69 1/2, and I don't always make the best decisions. But how will I be when I'm 82, or 85, or 90?" said Humphrey, whose agency was created to protect the elderly from financial abuse. He noted that older Americans lost an estimated $2.9 billion last year to con artists, dishonest financial institutions, strangers and family members.
"We need to educate not just me and other older people about the dangers of fraud and abuse. Our kids need tools and education, too, to prepare if they're called on to help us because of our diminished physical or mental capacity," he told the Minnesota Vulnerable Adult Justice Project in St. Paul.
The office's five-person staff will seek out and publicize the most effective practices around the country to protect vulnerable older adults, and will work with banking, law enforcement and political leaders to develop new procedures to protect older people from financial abuse.
"When you hear some of the stories I've been hearing around the country, it makes you sick, and then it makes you mad," Humphrey said.
His office also will examine problems of older women, who frequently live alone, have had less financial experience than men and may be particularly vulnerable, he said.
Warren Wolfe • 612-673-7253