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49. Gone Phishing: How to Protect Your Loved Ones from Financial Abuse with Deborah Royster

Published June 15, 2022

Show Notes

June 15th is World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD). The purpose of WEAAD is to provide an opportunity for communities around the world to promote a better understanding of abuse and neglect of older persons by raising awareness of the cultural, social, economic and demographic processes affecting elder abuse and neglect.

In recognition of the day, we are joined by Deborah Royster, the Assistant Director of the Office for Older Americans at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), to share the tools and resources for later life financial security. 

Episode Transcript

Sue Peschin:

Hi, everyone, and welcome to This is Growing Old, the podcast all about the common human experience of aging. My name is Sue Peschin, and I serve as President and CEO of the Alliance for Aging Research. June 15th is World Elder Abuse Awareness Day. The international network launched World Elder Abuse Awareness Day for the prevention of elder abuse and the World Health Organization at the United Nations. The purpose of WEAAD, W-E-A-A-D, is to provide an opportunity for communities around the world to promote a better understanding of abuse and neglect of older persons by raising awareness of the cultural, social, economic and demographic processes affecting elder abuse and neglect.

In recognition of the day, we’re talking about financial abuse. Here to join us for this conversation is Deborah Royster, the Assistant Director of the Office for Older Americans at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, or CFPB for short, is a US government agency that’s dedicated to making sure you’re treated fairly by banks, lenders and other financial institutions. And I’ll note that it’s just … It’s throughout the lifespan.

The CFPB’s Office for Older Americans helps older adults in key financial moments as they grow older. They provide tools and resources for later life financial security, protecting against fraud, help for surviving spouses, protecting your loved ones during the pandemic, and managing someone else’s money. The CFPB also issues reports and advisories relevant to consumers of all ages, as well as specific advisories on scams and other current financial issues to watch for. Very important work. Deborah, thank you so much for joining me today.

Deborah Royster:

Thank you very much for having me, Sue. I appreciate the opportunity to commemorate World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, and I look forward to talking about ways that we can protect our finances as we grow older.

Sue Peschin:

Great. Well … So you have focused a good portion of your work on older adult financial security. Why do you think this is so important?

Deborah Royster:

Well, this is a topic that really resonates with me both professionally and personally. Professionally, before joining the Bureau, I worked at the DC Department of Aging and Community Living, and Seabury Resources for Aging, uh, a nonprofit that serves, uh, older adults. And- and in those roles, I saw firsthand the challenges that many people face when dealing with caregiving issues and older adults’ financial security. And personally, I was, uh, a caregiver for my own mother until her death in September of 2020, at 101 years of age.

Sue Peschin:

Wow.

Deborah Royster:

Yeah, it was just amazing. She had an amazing life. Uh, and in her early 90s, um, my mother’s needs began to change. She developed dementia, she needed more support to be able to live independently and to continue to enjoy her life. And it was my honor and privilege, really, to serve as her caregiver as well as- as her financial caregiver.

Sue Peschin:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Deborah Royster:

And this is really why I work at the Bureau. Um, I work at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau in the Office for Older Americans to honor my beloved parents and to help others, older adults and their families, including financial caregivers, um, to address the important financial issues in their lives, whether it- it concerns housing, uh, debt, uh, preparing for retirement, and to find information and resources and support that they need to be able to live comfortably and, uh, independently for as long as possible.

Sue Peschin:

Yeah. That’s wonderful. And what you’re doing, I can tell you, uh, from my personal experience, is so, so important today, especially, more than ever. Um, last year, in 2021, my dad, who’s a retired pediatrician in the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania area, he got a call from a scammer that was posing as a social security representative. And it took months to unwind. It’s obviously so embarrassing for the individual, though he gave permission ’cause he- he was really … He was like, “You gotta do (laughs) a program on this,” ’cause he couldn’t believe that this happened to him, right?

Deborah Royster:

Yes.

Sue Peschin:

And … Yeah. And we have several friends now whose parents have lost money to gift card scams and other types of financial abuse. So my question to you is, you know, why are older adults more likely to, um, fall victim to scams? And what are the … Some common ways that scammers specifically target older people?

Deborah Royster:

Well, thank you for sharing, um, these stories, Sue, and for your … And I appreciate your- your dad’s willingness to share his personal story. Frequently, and I’ll talk about this later, there’s so much shame attached with-

Deborah Royster:

Uh, with losing money in- in these types of- these types of- of fraudulent schemes. Um, a- and for many of us, these issues are personal. Most people know someone who’s received a scam call or who’s lost money to a scammer. I- interestingly, though, it- it’s a common misconception that older adults are more likely to lose money to scammers than other age groups. In fact, when you look at the Federal Trade Commission’s Consumer Sentinel data, it shows that older adults are actually less likely to report losing money to a scam than younger people. But when they do lose money, the median loss for older adults is higher than for younger age groups.

Deborah Royster:

So that’s an in … A very interesting, uh, fact there. And to answer the second part of your question, about some of the common scams affecting older people, the biggest one is romance scams.

Deborah Royster:

Romance scams. I- I know we’ve all heard about the prevalence of romance scams across all age groups. Romance scams are at an all-time high. And in the past five years, people have reported losing a staggering $1.3 billion to romance scams, which is more than any other FTC fraud category.

Sue Peschin:

Wow.

Deborah Royster:

Yes. And the numbers have really skyrocketed, uh, in recent years. Uh, 2021 was no exception. Reported losses hit a record of $547 million for the year, which was actually more than six times the reported losses in 2017 and nearly an 80%, uh, increase year over year, as compared to 2020. So, dramatic increase in the incidence of romance scams. They affect, uh, people across all age groups. Uh, unfortunately, older adults do report the highest dollar loss to romance scams.

Deborah Royster:

So, uh, the reported median loss increase with age … In people aged 70 and older reported losing $9000, compared to $750 for the 18-29 age group. So that is … That’s a significant difference. And sometimes these losses are catastrophic for, uh, for older adults who may be living on a fixed income-

Sue Peschin:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Deborah Royster:

Uh, and may not be able to recover their losses through employment, uh, in- in the future.

Sue Peschin:

That’s right. Hm.

Deborah Royster:

The other thing, um, another growing trend in, uh, 2021 involves scammers who are using, uh, romance scams to lure people into bogus investments, uh, using cryptocurrency.

Deborah Royster:

And … Yeah. Yeah, crypto. In fact, the largest reported losses to romance scams were- were paid in cryptocurrency, in the- in the amount of $139 million last year alone. And that’s also a remarkable growth in cryptocurrency payments. Uh, it’s … That … Those numbers are increasing very, very dramatically.

Sue Peschin:

Hm. Wow. Gosh.

Sue Peschin:

That gives new … A new meaning to, uh, the phrase love hurts, right?

Deborah Royster:

Absolutely. Absolutely. And, you know, we … The … Many of these scammers are professionals in crime rings and, uh, they are highly skilled in, uh, in- in enticing, uh, individuals of all ages to- to give money, uh, in- in these circumstances. And- and it’s typic- typically very gradual. It starts very small and then there … It escalates over time, uh, with more and more amounts of money that are being asked for. Uh, and many times, uh, there’s a lot of shame, uh, you … Uh, associated with losing money, uh, and … Due to fraud and scams, including romance scams. And- and one of the things that we try to make, uh, clear to, uh, to, uh, our stakeholders and- and older adults and their families is there’s really no shame here. Uh, these are professionals and, uh, they are criminals. They are, uh, targeting people of all ages and, uh, anyone can be a victim of fraud and scams, and that’s why it’s so important to really be able to understand some of the signs.

Sue Peschin:

Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah. That’s helpful to hear. Now, I know you mentioned that you were gonna talk a bit more about the, like, the social security-

Deborah Royster:

Yes.

Government stuff. Can you tell us a little bit more about that?

Deborah Royster:

Yes. Yes. During the pandemic, i- imposters have been pretending to be Medicare, saying they’re offering test kits or that they will expedite an EIP payment. Uh, in a recent twist, scammers pretended to be FEMA, calling about Covid-related funeral expenses. Now, this is a new low.

Sue Peschin:

Wow.

Deborah Royster:

This is a legitimate program where FEMA will offer up to $9000 for Covid-related funeral expenses, but scammers are calling to pret … And pretending to be FEMA. Uh, you know, the- the key there is do not give personal information or money to someone who calls you. To find out if- if someone qualifies, you can call directly, uh … Call FEMA directly at their toll-free number, uh, which is 844-684-6333. That’s just one type of- of government imposter scam. Uh, there- there are others. Uh, the- the key there is vi- visit the government website directly, and don’t click on links, and say no to anyone who is claiming to be from a government agency, who’s asking you for cash, gift cards, wire transfers or cryptocurrency or personal and financial information. These- these are all r- red flags.

Sue Peschin:

Mm. Okay. Okay. Yeah. I mean, I remember a couple of years ago when Medicare decided to change people’s ID numbers, ’cause it used to be their social security number, and it was for a safety, you know, reason that they made that decision. And for a while, there were warnings about people calling up and asking, you know, what’s your new ID number, or there was some confusion, give us your social security number. And all of us in the aging community were just putting out alert, alert, alert around this.

Deborah Royster:

Yeah.

Sue Peschin:

Because the calls were- were crazy. They were nonstop.

Deborah Royster:

Yes.

Deborah Royster:

And there are many other types of scams, Sue, that also affect older adults and people of all ages. Tech support scams are another significant, uh, uh, type of scam. Um, I have a- a friend, uh, who was recently, uh, involved in a tech support scam. And fortunately, my friend was able to contact, uh, the bank, at the … My friend’s bank before any money was lost. But, uh, again, this is … Anyone at any point in time can be a victim of a scam. We might be distracted. Um, you know, sometimes there- there are certainly occasions where individuals may have some cognitive decline, um, or, uh, there just could be other compelling circumstances in the moment. And so we all … It’s really important to understand the signs, uh, to know the cues, the red flags and to be alert.

Uh, we do have a- a resource available called Money Smart for Older Adults that discusses many types of- of fraud and scams that are being perpetrated, including, um, identity theft, uh, scams, tech support scams, family emergency scams and many more. And that can be accessed, uh, on our website at consumerfinance.gov/moneysmart. This is a free resource. It can be downloaded, it can be ordered in bulk, uh, and, uh, it also available, uh, for presentation to your community. Uh, they’re prepared PowerPoint presentations to help share this information, and we really, really, uh, encourage, uh, encourage everyone to take advantage of- of this resource to help spread the word about how we can avoid fraud and scams.

Sue Peschin:

Oh, that’s great. Well, we will amplify that when we send around the recording for the podcast. And we also do a lot of work with the Area Agencies on Aging-

Deborah Royster:

Yes.

Sue Peschin:

Which work with a lot of the senior centers and all the local community centers for older adults. So that is … That sounds terrific-

Deborah Royster:

Those are great resources. I actually worked with an Area Agency on Aging in the District of Columbia, and that is actually where I learned about Money Smart for Older Adults. As general counselor to the agency, I was working to, uh, uh, to help educate, uh, older adults about the signs of- of financial exploitation, um, and including fraud and scams. And we- we discovered Money Smart for Older Adults. It was a great tool for us to share with our residents. And, uh, in the first year, I think we were able to share it with, uh, several thousand older adults. It was very well-received. The- the content is clear, uh, there are opportunities for discussion and sharing among the participants and, uh, it- it is very helpful in- in- in ex … Giving visibility to the types of things that we need to be aware of to avoid being, uh, you know, being involved in, uh … Being victimized, really, by, uh, fraud and scam.

Sue Peschin:

That’s awesome. Well, Sandy Markwood is a- is a good friend and, uh-

Deborah Royster:

Oh, great.

Sue Peschin:

We- we love working with them.

Sue Peschin:

So she’s actually on one of our earlier podcasts.

Deborah Royster:

Oh, excellent.

Sue Peschin:

All right, well, I wanna ask you just about the change over time in the last couple of years. Uh, I read that in 2021, there were more than 92,000, um, victims over the age of 60 that reported losses of $1.7 billion to the Internet Crime Complaint Center at the FBI. And that represented a 74% increase in losses over losses.

Deborah Royster:

Yes.

Sue Peschin:

So this gets to your point about it’s not necessarily more people, but it- it could be, you know, higher amounts.

Deborah Royster:

Yes.

Sue Peschin:

And that was the increase over that that was reported in 2020. And I just wanted to know, has, um, increases in social isolation and loneliness, which we all know are on the rise, among older adults during the pandemic and, you know, and even now, uh, as, you know, things continue, has that created more fertile ground for more scams?

Deborah Royster:

Great question, Sue. We have indeed seen a rise in scams during the pandemic, and we’ve really turned our focus toward that issue. Unfortunately, scammers are using … But not surprisingly really, scammers are using the economic consequences of a global pandemic to their advantage, uh, and consumers, as you noted, reported losing, uh, more than, you know … Significantly more amounts, uh, to fraud. And according to, uh, Consumer Sentinel data, more than $5.9 billion to fraud in 2021, which is up 70% from 2020.

Sue Peschin:

Wow.

Deborah Royster:

Um, that’s a huge, uh, increase. Social isolation is- is absolutely a- a main factor. Uh, during the pandemic, to- to reduce the spread of Covid, many of us have been quarantined, uh, our social activities have been restricted now for o- over two years, so we’re more at home to answer scam phone calls. And we may want- and we may want to connect, to pick up the phone to talk to someone. Uh, and we’re- we’re seeing people less. So, uh, if we get a scam call or an email or a text, we’re less likely to be out and about talking to family and friends, um, and others who many recognize a scam and help to alert us to prevent it. Uh, a- a second factor is we’re all doing more online.

Sue Peschin:

Right.

Deborah Royster:

During the pandemic, many more … We’re shopping, we’re baking, we’re meeting online. This is a major convenience, uh, that’s been extraordinarily helpful, but it is also means there are more opportunities for scammers to take our money or, uh, personal … Our personal information online. I- I know I was looking at, um … I was online recently looking at, uh, I think a video of some type, and suddenly a message popped up that, you know, that- that my, uh, memory had been exhausted. Of course, you know, I immediately was concerned, like, oh my goodness, do I need to do something? And then the light bulb went off. Okay, that’s a scam. I mean … So it’s- it’s the type of thing that now is so … It’s so, uh-

Sue Peschin:

So true.

Deborah Royster:

It- it’s, you know … Using the internet is so much a part of our lives, being online, that we’re much more exposed to these- to these types of opportunities for scammers. And scammers follow the money. They’re always looking for- for opportunities. So we have to be alert and, uh, make sure we share this information with our family and friends and our older loved ones and friends and as well as our younger loved one- ones and friends, so that we’re all prepared and equipped.

Sue Peschin:

Yeah. Yeah. This is critical. This is really good stuff. And I hadn’t thought about the fact that people were just hanging out online a lot more.

Deborah Royster:

Absolutely.

Sue Peschin:

Um, so that- that makes sense. Um, so tell us about the issue of medical debt in older adults. I want our listeners to better understand the scope of the problem with how many people experience medical debt and having to deal with creditors, and they can sometimes be predatory, I would imagine.

Deborah Royster:

Yes. Yes. Well, thank you for raising this issue. This is an important issue that the Bureau has made a priority. I’d like to give you a little background. 8.5% of older Americans had a past due medical bill in 2018. That’s around 4.5 million adults aged 65 and older. Uh, and that’s a figure that we might find surprising.

Sue Peschin:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Deborah Royster:

It’s true that being eligible for Medicare means that older adults are more likely to have health insurance than other age groups, but Medicare typically does not cover common needs that tend to increase with age, such as routine hearing, vision, and dental care.

Deborah Royster:

These are- these are common non-covered expenses that can lead to large out of pocket costs for Medicare beneficiaries, and this can contribute to medical debt. I remember with my own mom, um … You know, my mom needed … At some point, she needed h- hearing, uh, aids and, you know, those- those were not covered, uh, by Medicare and that was a very significant out of pocket expense that we … That our family incurred and it was really important. Uh, these are the kinds of expenses that tend to contribute to medical debt. Now, medical debt is also more common among older people of color-

Deborah Royster:

And older adults with incomes near the poverty line. Um, so when looking at this issue through an equity lens, it’s really important to note that a medical debt is strongly related to skipping medical care and- and other hardships as well. So we- we really wanna help older adults understand their rights and their protections when it comes to medical bills and collections.

Uh, first, it’s very important to know the limits on debt collectors who may be contacting you. Uh, remember that debt collectors must comply with the laws that apply to debt collection, like avoiding harassing or abusive calls and following requirements when they report that to consumer reporting companies. Uh, they can’t call you round the clock and you have a right to tell them to stop contacting you. These are laws that are enforced by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Uh, and, um, and when, uh, someone feels that, uh, they … That these laws are being violated and debt collectors are contacting them against these requirements, uh, they should reach out to the Bureau and file a complaint. We have a complaint forum-

Deborah Royster:

Uh, where, uh, individuals can file a complaint, um, to, uh, to address these kinds of issues. Um, the second thing is older adults should push back against coercive credit reporting. Debt collectors are not permitted to report a medical bill to the credit reporting companies without first trying to collect the debt from you. Um, sometimes they just … Debt collectors are just hoping that you would just pay the bill without disputing it.

Deborah Royster:

Uh, instead, you have the right to dispute the information. So this is an important subject for- for all of us. And to learn more about your rights when it comes to medical debt collection, please visit our website at consumerfinance.gov/ … uh, askCFPB, and there’s, uh, a lot more information there on how we can assert our rights and protect ourselves from, uh, illegal practices, uh, by debt collectors.

Sue Peschin:

This is so useful. This is really important. And I- I just wanna emphasize what you said about debt collectors can’t … Are not allowed to call you round the clock and you have the right to tell them to stop contacting you.

Deborah Royster:

Yes.

Sue Peschin:

I think that is so important, ’cause I never heard that before, and that you guys are available on there if people are, you know, harassing folks, which happens.

Deborah Royster:

Yes. This … And this is an important area of focus for the Bureau. It is, within the Bureau, statutory, uh, authority. We enforce these laws. And so we want to know when, uh, there are examples of- of companies that are violating, uh, these requirements.

Sue Peschin:

Okay, great. All right, so what … Tell us what people should know about financial abuse in long-term care.

Deborah Royster:

Well, that’s another excellent question. The- the Bureau’s Office for Older Americans recently created a guide to help people protect our loved ones who live in long-term care communities from elder financial abuse, uh, and this guide really helps- helps you to recognize red flags of financial abuse and to find out who to contact for help in different situations. The guide walks- walks you through key … Four key steps to help protect older adults who live in long-term care communities from financial abuse. And those four key steps of successful intervention are to prevent by educating yourself, your loved ones and your community, two, to recognize by spotting the warning signs and taking action, three, recording or documenting what you observe, and four, reporting, telling the appropriate authorities so they can investigate and help. Uh, this guide can help you to be ready to intervene and help someone, uh, who may be in need.

We- we also encourage, uh, families, uh, to think about using technology to help prevent elder financial abuse in- in long-term care settings. For example, you can ask your loved one’s nursing home or assisted living community if they can host meetings by phone or video to allow you or other individuals to participate when in-person meetings are not feasible. I know our family did this with my mom when she was, um, in- in a nursing home, um, during Covid. Uh, and we had regular video, uh, calls with her, and that was really helpful to be able to see her, to-

Deborah Royster:

To, uh, evaluate her affect, um, and to know that she was- she was, um, happy and she was being well-cared for. Uh, I … You know, I also … I always say, when you have a- a loved one who lives in, um, in a- a nursing home or in an assisted living community, uh, the presence of family or, uh, loved ones or friends who are constantly, uh, checking in, who know the staff, uh, it makes a difference. Uh, it makes a difference, because there are people … They- they react when they know that their family members who care, and it also gives you peace of mind knowing that your loved one is care … Is well-cared for.

Sue Peschin:

Mm-hmm (affirmative). Absolutely.

Deborah Royster:

Uh, yeah. You can also use digital tools, um, to- to visit with relatives as this can help to expose financial abuse. And so maintaining these strong connections, uh, through whatever means we can, are really important. And I would strongly encourage anyone, um, even if you aren’t able to visit in person, uh, to make sure that you engage through other means and video calls and- and, uh … With your loved one or your friend, who you may be serving, you know, a- as a caregiver for, uh, would … Can be very helpful in helping to, uh, understand and prevent, um, financial exploitation and abuse in- in, um, in supportive care settings.

Sue Peschin:

Great. This is terrific. Um, and we work with a lot of the groups that are focused on caregiving through mostly through a lot of the work that we do in Alzheimer’s, so this is really, really important stuff.

Deborah Royster:

Yes.

Sue Peschin:

So what are tips for older adults and their loved ones on how to prevent fraud? And what CFPB tools should folks know about that would be most helpful?

Deborah Royster:

Well, knowing about specific scams is very important. Uh, studies show that if you know about a sp- specific type of scam, you’re far less likely to lose money to it, and that’s why we devote time and resources to sharing this information widely within- within our communities. Uh, talking about scams is also very important. You may know about them, but there are others who may not, so it’s really important to take this knowledge and pass it onto your friends and family so that they can avoid scams too.

And other than discussing scams with others, um, there are four tips, uh, to keep in mind. Do not give any personal, identifiable information to anyone who calls or emails. You really can’t tell who someone is, uh, based on a caller ID anymore, uh, and so you can’t trust that. So it’s important not to share personal information.

Deborah Royster:

Also, be- be aware of anyone who asks you to send money by wire transfer or gift cards or cryptocurrency. Scammers know that if you send money that way, it’s almost impossible for you to get it back.

Sue Peschin:

Yeah.

Deborah Royster:

So be- be very careful and alert to anyone who- who’s asking you to send money in- in those ways, by wire transfer or gift cards or cryptocurrency. And then don’t let anyone rush you. Scammers always try to create a sense of emergency or urgency to rush you to make a decision. So take your time, talk to a trusted friend or family member and encourage … If you are a caregiver, encourage your family member to reach out to you before they take any action when they get any … They receive calls or contacts that- that they are confused about or they have concerns about.

I did that with my mom, because at some point, she was receiving calls, all kinds of pho- phone calls from, uh, different scammers. And I would come visit her and she’d be on the phone with someone and I’d ask her who that was, and- and- and when I got on the phone, it was really clear it was a scammer. So I started telling her, uh, when someone asks you to give them money, um, uh, you tell them to call your daughter. And- (laughs) and so she said, “I think I’ll do that,” and that’s what she did. And-

Sue Peschin:

That’s great.

Deborah Royster:

(laughs)

Sue Peschin:

I love it.

Deborah Royster:

(laughs)

Sue Peschin:

Yeah.

Deborah Royster:

So I think it’s important for us to engage with our loved ones and to let them know we’re here, we’re here to support them and, uh, to help them through these issues. The Bureau’s, uh, fraud and scam prevention resources are available at consumerfinance.gov/olderamericans. We have fraud prevention handouts, um, we have our Money Smart for Older Adults series that I referenced earlier, and a- and a host of other resources that can be used to train others in your community on how to recognize and avoid fraud and scam. So we’ve just scratched the surface here on a lot of information, but I just wanted to make sure that- that everyone is aware. You can go to our website at consumerfinance.gov/olderamericans.

Sue Peschin:

That’s great. Thank you so much for running all of that out. I think it’s-

Deborah Royster:

Sure.

Sue Peschin:

Incredibly helpful. And I bet … I would … If I had to guess, I would bet your mom not only says, call my daughter, but she says, call my daughter, who’s a big deal at the CFPB.

Deborah Royster:

(laughs)

Sue Peschin:

Right?

Deborah Royster:

I don’t know if she, you know, she appreciated that, uh, as much. She didn’t … I don’t know that she understood it in the final years of her life, but, uh, she was proud, I will say. She was certainly proud of- of … Proud of her daughter and- and very supportive throughout- throughout my life. Um, my mother is … She was just a remarkable figure, um, you know, my champion, um, and my advocate and my role model. And, uh, she went back to college in her 70s and got her degree at the age of 81, which was incredibly inspirational for me and for, you know, many, many others. So my mother was my hero.

Sue Peschin:

That is so awesome.

Deborah Royster:

(laughs)

Sue Peschin:

That does not surprise me, given what you have done with your life as well. And I am with you, my mother is my hero as well, and that’s very special.

Deborah Royster:

Yes. Thank you, Sue.

Sue Peschin:

Um, so we have a couple of closing questions that we ask all our- our guests. Um, my first one is, when you were a kid, what did you imagine growing older would be like?

Deborah Royster:

Well, you know, I … When I, uh, think back, um, at that time, there were so many interesting older adults in my family. I was always drawn to them, um, whether it was my parents, my grandparents, cousins, great aunts, uncles. And I was very blessed to be able to spend a lot of time with them. These were people who, uh, were, you know, born, uh, during hard times, uh, during the Depression. They grew up, were living in the Depression and world wars. Um, they grew up in the Jim Crow South. Uh, they, uh, you know, as African Americans, lived under, you know, very, uh, difficult and discriminatory conditions. Um, lots of hardship.

Sue Peschin:

Mm.

Deborah Royster:

But despite that, uh, they had incredible resilience, um, creativity, uh, passion for- for life, and hope, and sense of discovery throughout their lives. And so I was just thoroughly intrigued by the … Them and, uh, just hoped that, uh, I, you know, would be able to be like them as I grew older and maintain a sense of- of joy about life and a sense of resiliency and dis … And a quest for discovery, uh, across the lifespan. That’s what I hoped for as- as a- a- a- a child.

I was just intrigued by them, because they were amazing. My … You know, my- my father liked to hunt and fish. My mother was … You know, she liked to sew and garden and can and, um, and sing. And my grandparents … You know, my grandmother, maternal grandmother, was a professional seamstress. My paternal grandmother was, um, you know, a- a- a superb quilter. Uh, my grandfathers were excellent, uh, farmers. They were sharecroppers. Uh, so, uh, those- those older adults in my life just provided a great … Just a great, uh, kind of foundation and, uh, backdrop, you know, for what you can do as you grow older.

Sue Peschin:

Right. Incredible. I love it. That’s great. I love these questions, they’re my-

Deborah Royster:

Yes.

Sue Peschin:

They’re my … Almost my favorite part of the-

Deborah Royster:

Yes.

Sue Peschin:

Interviews. So what- what do you enjoy most about growing older now?

Deborah Royster:

Um, I think connecting back to, uh, to what- what I just said, in terms of, um, being able to connect with- with family and friends and loved ones, um-

Sue Peschin:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Deborah Royster:

And being able to, um, focus on my passions. Uh, and so some of the things that I … That my grandparents did, uh … For example, I’m learning to quilt because, um, you know, that’s something that I was inspired to do by the memory of my grandmother. Um, so exploring passions. And also, giving back and mentoring. Being able to mentor. I get a great deal of pleasure, um, uh, out of being able to talk to those who are a- at an earlier phase in their lives and their careers and to share whatever insights I may have and to learn from them as well. It’s a real gift. And I think we all have, uh … You know, when we- we are fortunate in our lives, we have many blessings and, you know, we- we need to pay it forward and- and help others along the way to help leave the world a better place. Uh, uh …

Sue Peschin:

Yes. Hear, hear. Yeah. And that really helps us too.

Deborah Royster:

Yes.

Sue Peschin:

Uh, yeah. Um, well, thank you, Deborah, so much for joining us. Thank you for the- the important and, um, just inspiring work that you do and to your colleagues at the CFPB. Uh, we really appreciate you joining us today.

Deborah Royster:

Well, thank you, Sue. It was our pleasure. And we appreciate the great work that you and your colleagues are doing as well. We look forward to continuing to work together to serve older adults and their families.

Sue Peschin:

Absolutely. And- and for everyone listening, thank you for listening to This is Growing Old. If you’re enjoying the show, please subscribe wherever you get podcasts. Have a fabulous day.