The Community Partners Council of United Way of Licking County met Wednesday, June 12 for its monthly forum series, which is open to the public and features a panel of experts on topics with local relevance, ranging from food insecurity to harm reduction. 

June’s forum on Elder Abuse and Neglect featured panelists Miranda Anandappa, a senior staff attorney specializing in senior-focused impact work at the Columbus office of Legal Aid of Southeast and Central Ohio (LASCO); Melissa Armstrong, a social worker in the Adult Protective Services Unit at Licking County Job and Family Services; Abby Ortman, the Fraud and Security Coordinator at Park National Bank; and Licking County Aging Partners’ Client Services Director Kristi Blust, RN.

“The number one thing that we see is neglect related to our seniors,” said Blust. “But we also see self neglect or behavior that’s threatening to their own selves. We see emotional, mental anguish, and then least on our list is financial.” 

While Blust does not primarily address the financial struggles of older adults, she and her fellow panelists acknowledged that money is increasingly becoming an issue for the people they work with. 

The 2023 Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed (ALICE) Report – which documents Americans who earn more than the Federal Poverty Line, but cannot afford the essentials where they live – estimated the living expenses of a single senior in Ohio to be $2,322 a month, or $27,864 annually.  

“What we’re seeing is, our older individuals are living on Social Security at 1940 and 1950 wages in 2024 and they’re just not making it,” said Armstrong. “I had a home visit yesterday with a gentleman who is bringing home $776 a month. That’s all the income he has.”

The ALICE Report found that while Ohioans 65 and older have the lowest rate of poverty, they are the most likely of any age group to be living in the limbo between the Federal Poverty Line and financial survival. 

The panelists have seen a rise in unhoused older adults as a result of these financial constraints, long waitlists at senior living facilities due to the large number of adults who are aging into a need for some level of care, and rules that prevent individuals with felonies or past evictions from qualifying for senior housing have also contributed to this.

 The issue of money is older adults has been further exacerbated by a rise in fraud and scams aimed at this demographic. 

“We see a lot of electronic email scams, phone scams, individuals being contacted urgently to send money to pay bills, things that maybe they do believe they owe,” said Ortman. “These individuals are sending money, they’re constantly in communication with someone who they believe to be who that person says they are. It’s important that we can recognize when that individual is being scammed very quickly. We don’t want to get too far.” 

“People are not just being taken for $1,000 here, or $1,500 here,” Armstrong added. “We’re talking life savings, retirements.”

A concern among many of the over thirty audience members seemed to be the potential for developments in AI to further the prevalence of online scams targeted at older adults. While none of the panelists had first-hand experience with this complication, several of them urged older adults, and those who care about them, to be hyper vigilant when dealing with online communications, even those that seem to come from a trusted source. 

“There’s a lot of good in this community that’s happening and I think people need to tap into those,” Armstrong said in addressing possible solutions, such as the low fare, three-route Licking County Transit bus system, to the struggles older adults face. “We need to be aware of our community resources and get that word out to our seniors, because I think they’re going to need to access [them] more and more.” 

The United Way of Licking County’s Community Partner Council will meet at 10 a.m. on July 10 at the Licking County Aging Partners for a panel on the topic “Everyone Needs to Belong.”

Emma Baum writes for, the nonprofit news organization of Denison University’s Journalism program, which is supported by generous donations from readers. Sign up for The Reporting Project newsletter here.