November 18, 2015
1 min read

Age-associated financial vulnerability a serious problem for older adults

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Older adults face an increasing inability to manage their personal finances, according to a report published in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

Researchers are calling for age-associated financial vulnerability (AAFV) to be recognized as a clinical syndrome to further research, policy work and physician recognition.

"We believe that AAFV is a problem with serious effects on patients, their families and society," Mark S. Lachs, MD, MPH, a geriatrician and epidemiologist at Cornell University, and colleague wrote. "Its roots reside in the curious intersection of several trends, including a rapidly aging society, age-associated changes in the human brain, shifts in the concentration of wealth to older demographic groups, and industry's adoption of marketing strategies that are increasingly becoming rooted in behavioral economics and cognitive neuroscience."

The authors defined AAFV as "a pattern of financial behavior that places an older adult at substantial risk for a considerable loss of resources such that dramatic changes in quality of life would result." The condition must also mark a change in how the patient previously managed their finances.

They explained that AAFV does not exclusively occur in patients with neurodegenerative diagnoses like dementia and can be linked to financial exploitation.

While the researchers were unable to determine the prevalence of AAFV, they cited a study of elder abuse that may offer insight. In that study, 4.7% of older adults reported experiencing financial exploitation since turning 60 years old.

The researchers also identified possible risk factors for AAFV, including executive dysfunction, acalculia, frontal disinhibition, anxiety, reduced ability to discern trustworthy persons, serious progressive illness, impaired mobility, vision and hearing loss, polypharmacy, depression, social isolation, loneliness, wealth concentration, information overload and sophisticated marketing.

"The role and responsibilities of physicians in protecting their patients with AAFV must be defined and supported with evidence-based tools." Lachs and colleague concluded. "Given the public health and policy implications of AAFV, a rigorous debate must begin on how to balance protection of older adults with the autonomy afforded to all citizens." by Chelsea Frajerman Pardes

Disclosures: One author reports grants from National Institutes of Health and grants from American Federation for Aging Research during the conduct of the study.