Senator Mark Norris
9A Legislative Plaza,
Nashville, Tennessee 37243-0232
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©2017 Mark Norris
Kirk A Bado , The Tennessean
February 27, 2017
Flanked by fellow lawmakers and representatives from the Elder Abuse Task Force, AARP and the Tennessee Commission on Aging and Disability, Sen. Mark Norris, R-Collierville, announced three bills that would combat what he said was a “growing problem” of elderly abuse in Tennessee.
“One of the fastest growing segments of our community in Tennessee is the elderly,” Norris said. “Unfortunately, this mirrors an equally fast growing statistic on crime.”
Spurred by recommendations from a two-year study conducted by the Elder Abuse Task Force, the legislation aims to impose stricter penalties on those who prey on the elderly by enacting the Elderly and Vulnerable Adult Protection Act.
According to the National Council on Aging, about one in 10 Americans 60 years and older has experienced some form of elder abuse. This could take the form of financial exploitation, physical or emotional abuse or neglect. These numbers could be even higher due to unreported cases of abuses.
“One case of elder abuse is far too many,” said Jim Shulman, executive director of the Tennessee Commission on Aging and Disability.
The legislation would increase criminal penalties for those found guilty of elderly abuse, build communication coalitions between government agencies to raise awareness of scams and ease restriction on financial confidentiality laws so family members can help report abuses.
“We’ve worked for over a year with the Tennessee Commission on Aging and Disabilities to learn more about this issue and to examine the role bankers can play in addressing it given the legal obligations they have to their customers,” said Tim Amos, executive vice president and general counsel of the Tennessee Bankers Association
The bill would also create a “no-solicitation” list for elderly and vulnerable adults as well as increase fines for perpetrators.
Lawmakers are confident that their bills will get bipartisan support, but caution that this is only the first step to a solution to a much larger problem.
“This is not the silver bullet, but it gets the processes started,” said Sen. Todd Gardenhire, R-Chattanooga.
Sen. Rusty Crowe, R-Johnson City, detailed his personal brush with elder abuse, when he found out his mother was a potential victim of a financial scam.
“My mother was on the phone and I could hear her say ‘I’ve given you all I have. I don’t have any more to give!’” he said. “She had gone to the neighbor’s house to borrow $15,000 to send to someone in Pakistan.”
While there are more punitive than preventative measures in the legislation, Norris thinks the most important aspect is simply raising the topic of abuse will help prevent future cases.
“The old saying about ‘no one knows what happens behind closed doors’ applies here, because this is one of those really difficult issues, but important to discuss.”