Doormen, other N.Y.C. building workers trained to spot signs of abuse against elderly

New York’s doormen are being enlisted as an army of eyes to look for signs of elder abuse: a stranger picking up the mail, the sudden presence of a rarely seen relative with an attitude, a bruise.

NEW YORK — New York’s doormen are being enlisted as an army of eyes to look for signs of elder abuse: a stranger picking up the mail, the sudden presence of a rarely seen relative with an attitude, a bruise.

“Doormen know everything that’s going on,” Joy Solomon said before conducting a training session for doormen, porters and other apartment workers, fittingly held over the din of whirring dryers in the laundry room of a Manhattan building. “They know who’s going in, who’s going out. They have access and they have a relationship of trust. They’re a friendly face.”

Solomon, director of the Weinberg Center for Elder Abuse Prevention at the Hebrew Home in the Bronx, partnered with the building workers’ union in a grant-funded program to help doormen spot various kinds of elder abuse — physical, sexual, psychological and financial.

The training, which began several years ago, has been broadened to include others who come in contact with isolated seniors, such as Meals-on-Wheels delivery workers. An online version is in the works that could spread its message throughout the union’s coverage area, from Massachusetts to Florida.

Every new set of eyes counts. The National Center for Elder Abuse says lack of detection makes it impossible to know the extent of elder abuse. Solomon quoted from a 2011 study that said only about 4 per cent of elder abuse incidents in New York are reported.

As an example of what can happen, she told the gathering of about 15 doormen and other workers of a woman whose son stole her prosthetic leg and sold it for drug money.

“It got him money and it kept her isolated and dependent on him,” Solomon said, adding that the man eventually drove the elderly woman into poverty and she now lives in a shelter.

Javier Rosa, who works the 11 p.m.-to-7 a.m. shift at a building, said he knows from his own experience that this is an idea that can work.

“There’s an old lady, sometimes she comes down late at night, she just wants to talk,” Rosa said. “She knows I’m here, she has nobody else, she trusts me. If something was wrong, I would know. I would never let anything happen to her.”

Solomon said workers should trust their gut feelings: “If you think something is going on, you’re probably right.”

She urged the workers to be on the alert for signs of physical decline, mental confusion and depression, which can increase a tenant’s vulnerability.

Perpetrators are often the elderly person’s own relatives but can also be bank workers, telemarketers and street scammers. A MetLife Mature Market Institute study found that elderly Americans lose $2.9 billion each year to financial abuse.

Solomon said a doorman can bring the mail directly to the tenant if he suspects someone is stealing a Social Security check.

If a daughter walks out with a painting, she said, mention it to the tenant.

“You might say, ‘I saw your daughter going out with a painting,’ and if she says ‘What painting?’ you know she’s unaware.”

Some workers were concerned they could endanger their jobs by reporting an unconfirmed suspicion, but they were told they can make calls anonymously to the city’s Adult Protective Services agency.

A spokeswoman said the agency is supportive of the training but can’t say how many calls might have been prompted by it.

Gene Kastner, manager of the building where the training took place, said he understands the vulnerability of the elderly from his time as a New York City police detective.

“We like to think of all our tenants as one big family,” he said, “and this is what a good family would do.”

Hope Iaccaci, a 73-year-old resident living alone in the building, said, it was comforting to know workers are looking out for her.

“It’s a great city for the elderly but it’s great that in your own building there’s that extra layer of protection.”

Just Posted

Alberta government to partially backstop new $2 billion dollar bitumen upgrader

CALGARY — The Alberta government is providing a $440 million loan guarantee… Continue reading

Local artists are in the running for Alberta Country Music Awards, held Sunday in Red Deer

Tickets are available to the ceremony at the Sheraton hotel

RCMP seeking suspect in school bus collision and car jacking

Two children suffered minor injuries in collision on Tuesday near Springbrook around 8 a.m.

Smaller, more affordable, lots wanted in Red Deer’s Evergreen neighbourhood

Council approves first reading of requested lot-size changes

Political shifts, sales slump cast shadow over gun industry

When gunmakers and dealers gather this week in Las Vegas for the… Continue reading

New Canada Food Guide nixes portion sizes, promotes plant-based proteins

Guide no longer lists milk and dairy products as a distinct food group

B.C. animators land Oscar nominations

‘Animal Behaviour’ by Vancouver’s David Fine and Alison Snowden among several Canadians on the short list

Canadian talent abound on newly revamped Vancouver Whitecaps squad

VANCOUVER — The Vancouver Whitecaps may need to stock up on maple… Continue reading

China demands US drop Huawei extradition request with Canada

China detained two Canadians on Dec. 10 in an apparent attempt to pressure Canada to release Meng

Rugby Canada Hall of Fame a family affair for hard-nosed forward Hans de Goede

Hans de Goede, a hard-nosed lock forward who captained Canada at the… Continue reading

5 burning questions ahead of the Oscar nominations

NEW YORK — The Oscars still don’t have a host, but on… Continue reading

‘Bao,’ ‘Animal Behaviour,’ ‘Weekends’ among Canadian Oscar nominees

LOS ANGELES — Several Canadians have landed Oscar nominations. The category for… Continue reading

Hollywood announces 2019 Oscar nominations

Netflix has scored its first best picture nomination, something the streaming giant has dearly sought

Opinion: Faith in immigration must be preserved

Canada has a deserved reputation for extending its arms to newcomers, but… Continue reading

Most Read