Brain changes make ALL older adults vulnerable to fraud

Many of us with loved ones living with cognitive issues face a never ending struggle to “protect” them from harm. My siblings and I battled with our parents when we could see they were making poor decisions and were at risk of jeopardizing their life savings. My parents were angry with their over-reaching children and our opinions.

What I finally came to learn was that my parents were unable to perceive they were making poor decisions and just yearned for independence and control over their own lives.

Turns out, that our aging brains put all of us at risk to be more vulnerable as we age. You can read the full report: Neural and behavioral bases of age differences in perceptions of trust.  In summary:

“Older adults are disproportionately vulnerable to fraud, and federal agencies have speculated that excessive trust explains their greater vulnerability. Two studies, one behavioral and one using neuroimaging methodology, identified age differences in trust and their neural underpinnings. Older and younger adults rated faces high in trust cues similarly, but older adults perceived faces with cues to untrustworthiness to be significantly more trustworthy and approachable than younger adults. This age-related pattern was mirrored in neural activation to cues of trustworthiness. Whereas younger adults showed greater anterior insula activation to untrustworthy versus trustworthy faces, older adults showed muted activation of the anterior insula to untrustworthy faces. The insula has been shown to support interoceptive awareness that forms the basis of “gut feelings,” which represent expected risk and predict risk-avoidant behavior. Thus, a diminished “gut” response to cues of untrustworthiness may partially underlie older adults’ vulnerability to fraud.”


Right now, I’m in the midst of two battles on behalf of my clients. One overpaid for work in their home and the other where a caregiver talked her into writing a check and also stole her credit card. I was just subpoenaed for the trial and hope that the outcome will ensure this horrible human can never be hired for senior-serving employment in the future.

The loss of this internal ability means we all need to step up to do what we can to protect our elders. I sure hope someone will be there to do the same for me. Driven.

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