Opinion

Our fastest-growing at-risk demographic

A segment of the American population growing faster than it has ever grown before is not defined by race, ethnicity, creed or gender. That segment, to no one’s surprise, is older Americans. Baby Boomers have reached and aged beyond retirement, and average lifespans are longer, especially in developed countries like the U.S.

One fact of an aging population, of course, is a larger cohort of vulnerable people, and that vulnerability is not limited to the inevitability of physical decline. Abuse by the vicious, the unscrupulous and the predatory is also an ugly reality.

As reported last week in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, law enforcement and social services agencies in Georgia are pushing for more effective ways to monitor, prevent and punish elder abuse. It’s a major focus of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, according to GBI Director Vernon Keenan, who told the AJC that abuse of the elderly — physically, financially or otherwise — is an “iceberg crime … you only see a small part of the criminal activity and the rest remains out of sight and hidden.”

What Georgia needs, many say, is a database that would work the way a child abuse or sexual offender registry works. (New Hampshire and Tennessee, the AJC reported, have elder abuse registries.)

“Say your mom needs someone to come in and do some work on her house,” GBI special agent Heather Strickland told the newspaper. “It would be nice to have a database where someone could go in it and see if (a person) … had ever been convicted of financial exploitation or abuse or neglect of an older person.”

Rep. Wendell Willard, R-Sandy Springs, has been pushing for tougher laws against abuse of the elderly since 2015, including tentative registry legislation last year that didn’t make the deadline.

GBI Director Strickland told the AJC that he expects an elder abuse bill to be presented in the next legislative session. The usual flurry of political trivia should be set aside long enough to make sure it’s a good bill that becomes good law.

Tradition revived

Some folks in Columbus (most but not all of them children) are going back to the future. But unlike the popular movie series of that name, this trip won’t require a reengineered DeLorean.

The vehicle in this case is more akin to the soap box derby cars of years past, when area youth competed for the chance at the All American Soap Box Derby in Akron, Ohio.

Local organizers, sponsors and donors have assembled a fleet of cars, and in partnership with Columbus Parks and Rec have involved about 250 youngsters in building the cars, training, rules, safety and soap box derby history. The first local competition will be Saturday, July 29, at Lakebottom Park.

People who have lived here a while (and readers of our “Looking Back” feature over the years) know what an event this used to be in Columbus every summer. Its revival is a delightful turn of events.

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