Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares was the guest speaker at the Southern Area Agency on Aging’s Henry County/Martinsville TRIAD S.A.L.T (Seniors and Law Enforcement Together) meeting on Aug. 12.
Miyares, who was among several other speakers, said he believes that 90 percent of life’s problems can be traced to either poor or missed communication, especially for seniors.
“One of the ways to solve that problem is to have those lines of communication. So, bringing people and bringing groups together to talk about what we’re seeing to protect our seniors” is important, he said.
It is especially important now because more and more activities are being done online.
“It’s a blessing, but it also means increasingly we’re more vulnerable,” he said.
He said seniors also are feeling the effects of a uniquely Western phenomenon where they feel they are not valued in society.
“In almost every culture on the planet whether you’re in Asia, Africa, or Latin America, your seniors are revered, and they are honored, and they are respected because they have wisdom,” he said.
Noting that the country has experienced much trauma in the last two years due to the pandemic, he said, “we’ve shut down 300 million Americans to beat the virus, but sometimes I don’t know if we got our arms around the consequences of that.”
Miyares noted that isolation is one of the worst things people that have depression or addiction can experience.
“We just socially isolated 300 million Americans for a year and a half, and so we’re dealing now with those ramifications, and back into that is a mental health crisis unlike anything this country has ever seen,” he said.
This in turn, led to an addiction crisis unlike anything the country has ever seen.
“We have lost 100,000 Americans that will no longer be at Thanksgiving dinner or birthday parties to overdoses,” he said.
When he was asked to speak at the event by TRIAD personnel, Martinsville Commonwealth Attorney Andrew Hall said he was told that people wanted reassurances that they are not forgotten.
“You are not forgotten. You are not alone in this. I know these are scary times and there are folks out there that don’t see us as human beings, they see us as potential targets,” he said.
Hall said people can avoid making themselves potential easy targets by knowing who they’re dealing with. “If someone contacts you via the internet or phone or even face-to-face and it sounds too good to be true, then it’s usually because it is too good to be true,” he said.
Like many people, Hall pays his bills online.
“We’re going to have to use electronic stuff, but know who you’re dealing with,” he said, adding people should not give out their social security numbers or dates of birth, especially if being pressured to do so.
Hall said the worst thing people can do is isolate. He believes people should be involved in organizations and attend functions, especially those aimed to help the elderly, and count on family and friends.
“Do not isolate because again, these folks that we’re dealing with that see you as targets, they’re looking for you’ll to be isolated. Maintain relationships and be involved,” Hall said.
Del. Wren Williams, R-Stuart, said there was a lot of heartache during the COVID-19 pandemic when it came to the elderly in nursing homes and other facilities.
“I’m not completely sure where any of the authority in any of those restrictions came from, but are there any thoughts or potential things we can do to sort of never let that happen again,” he asked.
Williams also spoke about the scam situations that target seniors.
“I’ve been able to get people away from these scams in the legal field and avoid the scams and stop the scams and sort of vet them,” he said.
Martinsville Police Chief Eddie Cassidy said larceny is one of the current trends facing law enforcement. “It seems folks are liking to try and go through cars again in the city of Martinsville. We had 15 the other night that folks went through. So, I remind everyone please lock your doors,” he said.
Cassidy also said to call the police if you felt uncomfortable in your own neighborhood.
“We would rather respond to your neighborhood and find nothing than you not call us and something happens,” he said.
The Southern Area Agency on Aging works to provide services to promote the health, quality of life, and independence of seniors, those with disabilities, and their caregivers to enable people to live with dignity and choice.