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Retirement Talk for Boomers, Seniors and Retirees

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Episode 105 Taking Advantage

My friend said that his mother has spent over two hundred and fifty thousand dollars on the shopping channel in the last few years. Her house is full of boxes of stuff. Some of the rooms have boxes stacked to the ceiling with only a  little pathway for one to navigate. He would like to get her to stop, but so far, he has had no luck.

This is Retirement Talk. I’m Del Lowery.

My friend’s mother is bed ridden. She operates out of her bedroom. The television is always on. She is on a first name basis with folks from a couple of shopping channels. Referring to people from these programs she will say, “Sharon called. She is just the nicest person.” Or, “Bobbie”, referring to a person who takes orders for one of these channels, “Bobbie told me that they are having a special on….” She has ordered things that come in the mail every month for months. They are never opened. They just get moved to one of the back bedrooms.

When asked why he doesn’t just take his mother’s credit card, my friends says that, “It is her money. She can do with it as she wants.”  He sometimes manages to temper her buying but she always seems to return and make up for lost time. What a sad story.

Another friend of mine had a similar situation. His mother’s house also had many unopened boxes. No one knew what was in the boxes or what had been ordered. He did take his mother’s credit card. At the same time she also moved into an assisted living center. Her shopping stopped. We see her every week or so, usually at dinner. She seems happier than ever. I’m not sure of the reason, but she doesn’t seem to miss the shopping. Perhaps it is a combination of meds she may be on, the atmosphere at the assisted living center, or that she is starting to forget things relatively quickly. Whatever the reason, my friend is glad to see the shopping stop.

His father had also been taken advantage of even as he lay hardly able to move and close to death. His major fault in life, if he had a fault, was that he trusted people. He liked to think the best of people. He had been a doctor in one of the armies that liberated a German concentration camp at the end of World War II. I’m not sure that is the reason for his great desire to trust the goodness in people, but he certainly seemed to try to assume the best of people’s intentions.

In later life he was taken advantage of by a financial accountant. Bad investments had been made and overcharges had become the norm when he handed his financial matters over to his son to act as a trustee. His son fired the accountant but much damage had already been done. Then the phone would ring and unscrupulous solicitors would try to obtain large contributions to some charitable cause of one kind or another. It is so sad to think of someone during there final days or weeks with a phone positioned close to their bed so they might talk to their family or close friends and then be harassed by brazen, assertive and persistent phone solicitation. Trusting people can lead to problems - especially blind trust. I guess it is like the political saying, "Trust but verify.

My sister has a 90 year old friend, Mr. Colson, who she walks with each morning for exercise. Mr. Colson has recently experience being taken advantage of by a newly arrived neighbor. The new neighbor, Willie, wanted a ride 25 miles away to a veteran’s hospital: once, twice, then three times. He insisted on lunch after his medical appointment. He never offered to pay for gas. He didn’t even pop for lunch for Mr. Colson or himself. One day Willie and his wife came into Mr. Colson’s house and looked all through it on their own. Then he wanted Mr. Colson to take him fishing which he did. Once at the lake, Willie, the new neighbor, decided he didn’t want to fish. He wanted to go to a car dealership and look at a new truck. Mr. Colson took him to the car dealer and never said a word. It was at the end of that trip that Mr. Colson told Willie that was the end of their friendship. “Don’t ever call again,” He said.

Being taken advantage of is a lifelong problem. It is one of those things that’s difficult to control. We all want to help people, especially those who are in need. But, we don’t want to be put upon in some unethical way that turns us into an easy mark. It is not easy to tell the difference sometimes between helping because we believe it is the right thing to do and refusing to help someone because we feel like we are being played for a sucker. This is one of those subtleties in life that must be learned. Where do you learn that: school, parents, teachers, preachers? I guess that is something we pick up through the school of hard knocks. It probably starts on the play ground.

 Being taken advantage of is a life long problem. Getting older only makes it a bit more difficult. 

 

This is retirement talk.

 

PS: I got a kick out of my seventy something year old sister telling me the story about her friend, Mr. Colson. It was always Mr. Colson to her. She walks with him every day, but back in the Midwest where I came from, one always refers to your elders as Mr. or Mrs. Or Miss. I’ve been away from there a long time.  It seems like you might be on a first name basis after years of exercise walking down a country lane together.