Lifting seldom-heard voices in order to re-examine traditional social constructs and to cultivate love and empathy

Senior Voices Part 5- Conclusion


For some seniors, every day can be a struggle to make sure they have food, transportation, medications, and even housing. As I mentioned previously in my Loneliness Series, because of social isolation, older people can be subject to financial fraud and other abuses. Without the “tribe” to watch out for them, to have conversations with, to learn about how people can steal or might be stealing from them, Seniors are left vulnerable. Criminals prey on the vulnerable because the opportunity exists.

The Seniors, they want to be with you…. They don’t understand what is going on.

~ Nancy, 65, recently lost her mother

Sometimes the caregivers themselves are the ones taking advantage of the Senior. Again, because the opportunity exists so much more for a caregiver. Additionally, the Senior might be in a mental state that prevents them from telling someone that they are being taken advantage of or they might not even know it’s happening. The caregiver might have isolated the Senior so that family members are prevented or discouraged from visiting. The caregiver may have made threats against the Senior that someone would be hurt or harmed if they tell anyone. Or there could be a language barrier if the Senior is not a native English speaker.

Colorado assisted-living Ombudsman services provide a way for elders and their families to get help in these cases. I met with Anne Meier, Colorado State Long-Term Care Ombudsman at Disability Law Colorado which is a non-profit that helps give voice to Seniors (and others with disabilities) who are suffering issues related to their long-term care. If you believe that you as a Senior or your Senior loved-one is a victim of any kind of abuse, whether it is financial, physical, or neglect, they can help. Often in facilities you will find Ombudsman posters, or you can ask a case manager or get in touch with your local area agency on aging.

Elder abuse is more and more common. Doctors, nurses, social workers, clergy, nursing home staff, police, home health-care workers, and others who work with Seniors are mandatory reporters of abuse to those who over the age of 70. Mandatory reporters who fail to communicate abuses to authorities could suffer a $750 fine and six months in jail. Examples of abuse include, but are not limited to, starvation and neglect, elders being drugged, elders being handled roughly or beaten, elders being isolated or having their phones, glasses, hearing aids, walkers, etc. hidden from them. There are also cases of elder sexual molestation and rape.


Seniors of Color are increasing in numbers, even though a larger portion of those over 65 are caucasian. Life expectancy for non-white seniors vary widely by race. Business Insider reported on this sad situation for our black friends. Latinos age 55 and over make up 18% of the Senior population of Denver County (p. 13) and Latino Seniors over 65 make up nearly 11% of the entire State of Colorado.

Unfortunately, many people of color struggle with finances, transportation, and access to medical benefits and care. Becoming a Senior only makes these problems worse. In the case of Latinos and other immigrants there can be language barriers and difficulty in understanding how complicated systems of care, billing, and medical referrals work. For example, Denver’s Office on Ageing web page is Google translatable, however, the clickable PDF Elder Resource Guide is primarily in English, even though nearly 20% of Denver Seniors are Latinos. As a result of these many obstacles, Seniors of color generally do not obtain the same quality or quantity of care, health education, transportation, and medical access.


There are so many housing options available to Seniors, more than I had ever imagined. Senior communities have appeal because of the vast array of activities made available to the residents. Places like Heather Gardens and Windsor Gardens are two such examples in the Denver metro area. They are both Senior condo-communities where organized trips to Blackhawk, the theatre, classes on the campus, game groups, exercise groups and other activities are organized.

However, many Seniors prefer to age in place, meaning they prefer to stay in the house that they have probably lived in for decades. If they can do that there is a program in place for a reduced property tax stipulation. This can cut down on costs. Aging in place has been found to extend the life span and quality of life for the individual.

Maia, 72 and her husband 60, are considering a move to Florida. She says, “At [one of the senior communities in Denver] they turn up their noses and there’s too much crime here. In Florida there are cheap properties.”

The Denver Inclusive Housing Report states, ” Seniors also currently make up a growing number of the city’s population experiencing homelessness with recent estimates showing nearly a quarter of the homeless in Denver over age 55” (p. 110). With the “Granny Dumping” phenomenon described in this series this should not be a surprise. But it also should not be acceptable.


As I chatted with Kenneth I noticed that his teeth are mostly missing and decayed. He says he’s blessed because, as far as he knows, his bad teeth are his only health affliction, despite his poor eating habits. He says he even fell recently and didn’t break any bones.

Seniors might have a difficult time getting help with their teeth. Medicare does not cover dental costs. If a Senior has a low-enough income Medicaid in Colorado will cover $1,000 annually. There is a Senior Dental Program, but it is underfunded and has a waiting list. In the fiscal year of 2016-17 there was a waiting list of more than 1,100 Seniors (source Oral Health Colorado). Seniors who can get dental care tend to take better care of themselves, report less pain, and tend to eat better. Additionally, dentists can see signs of diabetes and heart disease by looking at a person’s teeth!

As mentioned by Doug Muir in my last article Seniors [and the rest of us] suffer from silos of care. Because doctors and insurance part-out our bodies, we don’t get the whole-person care that we deserve. This can be life threatening on all levels, but especially for Seniors who are isolated and don’t understand that they might need a mental health professional. Often dental work or eye care are neglected as well. Sometimes alternative medicine can be helpful but things like acupuncture and chiropractic are often not covered by insurance or Medicare.

“Every time there is a new health or injury problem at this age you begin to wonder if this is the issue that will accelerate the decline.” ~Iris

As we age, we deal with an increasing amount of pain. Since Tylenol no longer helps, Iris finds that rather than opioids, she is drawn to the local and recent legalization of marijuana (in Colorado) to help with her pain. But she says she has to watch it. One day she was on her feet for nine hours while she was high. The next day she felt the pain. Iris also does her physical therapy exercises and seeks out massages to help deal with pain.


Nancy asks, “Why isn’t anybody talking about this?” She is going to counseling now to deal with the guilt of feeling as if she didn’t do enough before her mother passed recently. “A support group was not enough. I can’t listen to those stories anymore.” She adds, “I have no kids and no money. What will happen to me?”

Our wise elders, our vulnerable citizens, our poor Seniors, our unheard society, needs their stories to be told. We all need to know and understand what is going on for the ageing population. For one day, each of us will be there.

There is so much to learn about the Elderly and what people experience as they age. There are still several areas that could not be covered. There are more topics around housing and mental health/loneliness to talk about. There are also the subjects of fraud/finances/abuse, transportation, technology, and pain management. This investigation truly re-affirms the necessity for Seniors to have a place where their voices can be heard.

(This research was conducted in 2018. Some of the authorities contacted in this series may have left their positions since that time.)

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