Old folks and scams: a neurological link

Ransom Riggs

Growing up, I had an older relative who used to cause a great stir among her children by giving away what seemed like prodigious amounts of money to television evangelists (several of whom eventually ended up behind bars). A close friend's grandmother once gave $10,000 to a pair of scam artists posing as fully-licensed roofers (which, needless to say, they weren't). This friend and I wondered: is it that we simply grow more gullible as we get older? Not so fast. According to LiveScience, there's something more complex at work:

The possibility of losing money stresses young adults out, but it doesn't seem to faze the elderly. New research reveals that while both young and old adults had similar levels of brain activity when anticipating rewards, certain brain regions in older adults didn't activate when responding to a potential financial loss.

I wondered what the stats were on the elderly and gambling, and found that a study published in The American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry revealed, lo and behold, that "a significant percentage [about 11%] of older Americans may be "at-risk" gamblers who tend to bet large amounts of money or more than they can afford." But now that we have an idea of what's behind the reckless behavior of some senior citizens, is there anything we can do about it? Somehow I doubt it: after all, we've known about the reckless behavior of teenagers for a good long time now, and that doesn't seem likely to change anytime soon.