by Shawn Pachucki
Special to The New Tri-State Defender
Back in January, the RISE Foundation of Memphis identified older adults as new targets for support, citing that population as being long underserved with respect to financial education, and at significant risk of scams and financial fraud.
Now that's all changing.
RISE is in the throws of a widespread awareness and outreach campaign designed to make it easier than ever for older adults to find answers and assistance to safeguard their personal finances. As one of only five organizations in America chosen to participate in the National Neighbors Silver project from the National Community Reinvestment Coalition (NCRC), RISE is emphasizing convenience as a core component of the campaign.
The Aging Commission of the Mid-South and Memphis Area Legal Services are partners in the effort to identify critical financial issues and the older adults who are dealing with them. Specialists are networking in neighborhoods throughout Memphis to find trustworthy agencies willing to take their services directly to citizens.
"We want to help connect older adults with these services through the places where they already are, like church groups, senior housing developments and senior centers," said Aimee Burnwatt, who manages the National Neighbors Silver project for RISE.
RISE members have identified more than 20 community locations where they've been able to conduct "learning circles" with focus groups of older adults. Burnwatt said the individual members of the learning circles have an opportunity to play an integral role going forward as campaign ambassadors.
"The program won't be successful as just a series of seminars about financial products; we want to engage and empower seniors to talk to their families, friends and neighbors," she said.
"These learning circles will bring up issues that aren't being talked about otherwise and will personalize the issues so older adults will want to know more."
Scams and fraud risks have received the most attention so far in learning circles, from general warning signs to ways to reduce risks and report a scam. Defining age-friendly banking is another key concentration.
Burnwatt warns that just because a certain type of account is marketed to older adults, it doesn't guarantee all of the features older adults might need. RISE is interested in finding out from older adults what aspects truly make bank accounts and banking institutions age-friendly, then simplifying the process of getting connected.
As awareness increases for National Neighbors Silver, RISE wants to extend conversations beyond scams and general banking to more specific products and issues, such as Medicare Advantage Plans and VA Aid, pensions and foreclosure prevention.
(To learn more about National Neighbors Silver or the RISE Foundation, visit risememphis.org.)