NASHVILLE, Tenn. - A group of lawmakers have teamed up to address what they said is a growing issue across the state - elderly abuse.
The lawmakers announced legislation they said would address abuse of elderly or vulnerable adults in Tennessee.
Senate Bills 1192, 1230 and 1267 would help protect against physical, mental, and financial abuse, and increase penalties for people who commit these crimes.
The bills would increase criminal penalties for those found guilty of elderly abuse, increase communication between government agencies to raise awareness of scams, and ease restrictions on financial confidentiality laws so family members can report problems. The bills come from the Elderly and Vulnerable Adult Abuse Task Force.
The Tennessee Bankers Association said it would also give banks more power to act if they suspect a customer is being taken advantage of financially.
“Bankers are often on the front lines. We see our customers being scammed and under current law there isn’t really anything we can do,” said Tim Amos, Executive Vice President of the Tennessee Bankers Association. "To have a process to allow us to ask you to pause the transaction or wait until tomorrow or until you consult with family is a pretty big step.”
The National Council on Aging reports about one in 10 Americans 60 and older has experienced some form of elder abuse. Lawmakers said studies show over the past decade, reported cases of assault and financial exploitation of vulnerable adults has increased by 20 percent or more. It is estimated that as many as one in 23 cases of elder abuse are unreported.
The 2010 census documents the portion of the United States population over age 65 is 13.4 percent of the total population and that the fastest growing segment is those aged 85 and older.
The bills have just been introduced and are expected to come up in committees in the coming weeks. Lawmakers are confident the bills will receive bipartisan support.