A 75-year-old retired professor still regularly delivered guest lectures at universities around the country. “Dad is still so sharp,” his adult children often said. And yet, his family learned that he had fallen victim to an investment scam that cost him thousands of dollars.
It has long been known that seniors are at higher risk of being defrauded. People with memory loss and other cognitive impairment are targeted by crooks who know they may be an “easy mark.” And yet many seniors who are seemingly cognitively intact also make poor decisions that surprise their families.
A recent study by University of Iowa researchers suggests a reason that some older adults become more gullible. The research, published in the journal Frontiers of Neuroscience, showed that many seniors experience deterioration of an area of the brain called the ventromedial prefrontal cortex, which controls belief and doubt. The study authors report: “This specific deficit may explain why highly intelligent…patients can fall victim to seemingly obvious fraud schemes.”
Study author Daniel Tranel encourages families to be protective of older relatives—but also to be understanding. “Instead of saying ‘How would you do something silly and transparently stupid,’ people may have a better appreciation of the fact that older people have lost the biological mechanism that allows them to see the disadvantageous nature of their decisions.”
To read more about the study, visit the University of Iowa website.
© IlluminAge AgeWise 2012