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State Focusing on Helping Retirees

By Carl Langley
web posted April 6, 2009
GUEST COLUMN – Millions of the nation’s baby boomers (those born in the five-year period after the end of World War II) are retiring each month, and thousands are turning South Carolina into a retirement haven.

Spokesmen for Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer’s office said the growing population of those 65 and over is spending from $10 to $12 billion a year in the state on everything from home purchasing, home renovations and landscaping to medical care, in-home nursing services and medications.

Because a growing number of retirees appear to be the most vulnerable to scam artists, thieves and assorted other criminals, the state is focusing on new methods of protecting senior citizens.

Frank Adams, a former editorial writer for the Augusta newspapers and a state DSS official for the past 25 years, and former Secretary of State Jim Miles, Bauer’s chief of staff, said in a telephone interview that South Carolina is in the forefront of those states taking action to protect and assist the growing wave of seniors.

The state’s answer to those who would prey on the elderly is Senior Shield, a non-profit agency operating out of the lieutenant governor’s office which will act as a first line of defense against individuals and groups trying to take advantage of the elderly.

Adams noted that with a growing population of elderly there comes a growing wave of individuals seeking to take advantage of seniors by offering shoddy workmanship, selling bogus items or outright theft.

Miles, who served two terms as South Carolina’s secretary of state, is familiar with shady dealings. He was the originator of the state’s Christmas season listing of good charities and bad charities and put a lot of bogus fund-raising organizations out of business during the holiday season.

Adams said it’s only natural that with a growing aging population there would be a growing number of frauds, cheats and thieves stepping up their campaigns against a vulnerable population group. He said the state is getting complaints about retirees suffering from elder abuse and outright theft of their assets.

The surge in complaints gave rise to Senior Shield, which was turned over to the lieutenant governor’s office under a legislative act. It is closely connected with the state’s Council on Aging and other statewide agencies, including non-profit charity groups, that are involved in eldercare..

Senior Shield recently went on the internet with its own website powered by Senior Checked. It is a simple, easy to understand program that not only serves seniors but offers certification to and validates those individuals and businesses that serve the aging population.

Adams said Senior Shield is being promoted to some 800,000 seniors and the baby boomer group, estimated at more than 1.3 million and is signing up reputable individuals and companies that seek to offer various services to elders.

Adams said the Senior Shield program will provide free access to seniors seeking information on contractors who have been cleared by the program to conduct business in the elderly population group.

Those individuals and businesses wanting to gain state certification and approval can do so by providing background information and paying a membership fee of $15 a month to the state. In turn, the state will verify business charters and licenses after conducting a background investigation of the participating business or individual.

Adams said the membership fee pays the cost of the program rather than it being a burden on taxpayers. He was one of the first customers of the new program, paying the fee himself to get background information on a contractor he wanted to hire to correct a roof leak at his residence.

“It was money well spent,” said Adams.

Adams and Miles in a telephone conference noted that Senior Shield wants to assure that those applying for certification to do business in the elder community are bonded and carry proper insurance.

They also noted that those signing up must hold and maintain valid and proper business licenses within the community, pass a background check using a national and local review service, have no history of complaints involving services and have no criminal record.

Adams and Miles said they believe this new program and service will go a long ways to cutting down on the crime rate involving senior services and care. They remarked that seniors deserve to spend their retirement years in safety and security without the fear of losing their assets to criminals.


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