WANTED: Geezer detectives


Have you ever noticed that nosy neighbors are always old? Why? We’ve got time, distrust learned from years of living and a natural curiosity for anything that might mean trouble. There are also some of us that are constantly on the look out for a party to bust in on. Mr. S. and friends come to mind here. This is the heartland of detective work…basic snooping.

On the real crime-solving front, Sherlock Holmes is one of my heroes. I’m a fan of Miss Marple and Poirot…who are more my speed but even they get ahead of me sometimes. We oldies love a good mystery. It’s a generational thing. We like to see bad guys get caught and evil schemes unraveled. It probably started with Dick Tracy, Nancy Drew or The Thin Man. Mr. S. and I are addicted to old spy movies and detective shows. Without Oregon Public Broadcasting, we’d be left to cooking, cars and home improvement. A good-old unsolved crime is much better company.

With each year that goes by, I get more wary and less tolerant of bad guys. I particularly don’t like the folks who prey on the elderly. They make assumptions that we are vulnerable. The sad fact is that some of us fall into that category in one way or another but it doesn’t mean we have to be abused by crooks.

I read an article awhile back about the cost of Medicare fraud and it scared me. I don’t know about you, but I don’t know what we would do without Medicare. Without help paying medical bills, we couldn’t make it. There is never a day that I don’t understand this fact, so much so, that I’ve turned detective.

Here’s a chance for Geezers to help ‘save the day’…or at least save the government and ourselves a lot of money. How? By reading those Medicare statements as they arrive in the mail. If you are not in the habit of checking those forms for accuracy, please start. First, they give you an idea of just how much Medicare helps with health care costs but more importantly, it gives you a chance to spot fraud. No one knows what your medical bills should be better than you do.

If each of us did this one thing, we could make a huge difference. Most criminals assume that we won’t be reading and double-checking numbers. This same caution holds true for companies which use false marketing through mail, internet or telephone calls to trick you into spending your money.

I hate the idea of being wary of everybody and everything…but in too many ways…here we are. I check every bill that comes in. If a rate goes up, I call to ask why. I am more careful about banking and security than I have ever been. I double check contractors and ask for references. I get bids. I’ve become my own “house detective”.

If there has ever been a time to learn to be an investigator…it is now. Most of us have the time and patience to track things down. Most of us have a telephone or access to a computer or library. Most of us have friends who share the same set of challenges which means you won’t be alone in your sleuthing.

During the years I took care of my grandparents, I encountered several instances of attempts at fraud, poor quality of care, overcharging and mistakes in prescription drugs. Though things have improved in some ways, offering more protection for seniors, there will always be a need for advocacy…for yourself and for others.

Many of you are already aware of issues but too many are not. If you are lucky enough to have the support of family members or a close circle of friends, I’m asking you to get together and share resources with someone who doesn’t have a network. You’ll find a person like that at your nearest nursing home, home care facility or retirement center.

Many of us just need someone to talk to and trust enough to help go through monthly bills, return something that wasn’t ordered, check on prescription prices or arrange for needed repairs or services. A lot of us need someone who can offer to track down a problem or make calls and ask questions on their behalf. It doesn’t take a lot of time to do a little investigative work which will result in a whole lot of peace of mind.

If you want to help, start with your local senior center or the Senior Citizen Advocate for your county. You’ll need to “pass muster” to volunteer but here’s your big chance to be a great detective! You can still be a nosy neighbor, too. I am. 🙂

Linda Shaffer and Grover.

Linda Shaffer, author of Geezer World, lives in Netarts with her husband Nick and their loving canine mascot, Grover. She is a former publisher of the Headlight-Herald with more than 30 years of experience in community journalism.