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A crowd gathered at the Southside Senior Center his morning. Governor Jay Nixon was there to sign a bill designed to protect senior citizens from financial exploitation.
According to Nixon, it’s estimated that each year in the U.S., senior citizens are swindled out of $2.6 billion.
Senate Bill 689 expands the definition of financial exploitation against seniors and those with disabilities to include “undue influence…”
"This new language makes it clear that even someone who has power of attorney or guardianship can be prosecuted if they use their influence to take advantage of an elderly or disabled person's finances."
According to Nixon, it’s been difficult for prosecutors in financial exploitation cases if the person committing the crime had legal status as a guardian or power of attorney.
Nixon says the law also protects elderly from physical abuse…
"By making it clear that caregivers who fail to seek medical attention or who fail to provide care for an individual in need will be held accountable."
He says that’s regardless of whether injuries sustained were inflicted on purpose or were the result of reckless behavior.
Larry Smith and Mary Netzer, two seniors who were visiting the senior center, say they’re happy to see the bill signed into law…
"I think it's great. It's greatly needed."
"Oh, I do, too, very much so, and it is so sad that some people don't recognize it as elder abuse."
Nixon says he’ll continue to work to protect the elderly in Missouri. He encourages seniors to get on the no-call list both on their home phones and on their cell phones. And he says anyone who is the victim of financial exploitation should contact authorities.
For KSMU News, I’m Michele Skalicky.