Event held to protect our county's elderly

Event held to protect our county's elderly

Lenoir County residents prepare to start their walk through downtown Kinston to bring awareness to elderly abuse. Photo by Bryan Hanks / Neuse News

Betsy Griffin is the executive director of Lenoir County Council on Aging. In her position, she spends much of her time advocating for the county’s senior citizens and elderly.

On Friday, she was helping lead an event at Pearson Park in downtown Kinston to garner attention to elderly abuse. A day earlier, though, she was on the receiving end of someone attempting to pull off an elderly scam of their own.

Betsy Griffin, left, and Angela Pridgen speak to the 200 residents who gathered Friday morning for the Elder Abuse Awareness Day event at Pearson Park. Photo by Bryan Hanks / Neuse News

“It was a call from Washington, D.C.; they said they had a warrant out for my arrest because there had been fraudulent activity on my Social Security number,” Griffin said. “They wanted me to hold on and talk to an agent.”

Griffin said she was grateful it was she who took the call and not an elderly Lenoir County resident who might not be able to discern the truth.

“They would’ve probably held on, and potentially given that person private information they shouldn’t have shared,” Griffin said. “They would’ve been scared someone was coming to get them.”

Griffin, along with other agencies — including the Lenoir County Department of Social Services — held an Elder Abuse Walk to help call attention to this type of abuse. The event is typically held annually on June 15, but was moved up a day this year.

The goal of the walk, which started in Pearson Park and went along a portion of Herritage Street before coming back to the park, was to call attention to all the different kinds of elder abuse.

“You need to be able to take the time to look at your neighbors who are elderly and make sure things are OK,” Griffin said. “Elder abuse happens in many ways — verbally, physically or financially.”

More than 200 people participated in the Friday morning event, which started with short speeches from Griffin, Angela Pridgen (a regional ombudsman) and DSS Director Jeff Harrison. There was line dancing, the walk itself and ended with seniors and their advocates and supporters enjoying some free Italian ice.

“Elder abuse is a very underreported crime,” Pridgen said. “We have a large group today and perfect weather — this is very encouraging.”

David Rosato is the human services director of the Eastern Carolina Council Area Agency on Aging. He was also at Friday’s event to show his support of Lenoir County’s elderly.

“Lenoir County has, over the years, increased the visibility of elder abuse awareness,” he said. “It’s gotten more and more momentum and that means the message is getting out there.”

Griffin said at least once a day her office gets a call about a Lenoir County senior citizen being scammed on a phone call.

“Some seniors don’t exactly understand technology and how (scammers) can get their phone number,” Griffin said. “So when they get that phone call from someone saying they’re with the Social Security Administration, they sometimes believe it.”

Harrison said if you suspect an elderly person is being abused, you can help.

“They should call the Department of Social Services at 252-559-6400 and tell the receptionist they would like to make an adult protective services report,” he said. “They will connect them to our adult services department, where they’ll make an intake report.”

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