Technology plays a significant role in every aspect of human existence, including elder abuse. Elder abuse takes many forms, including physical abuse, emotional abuse, sexual abuse, financial exploitation, neglect, and abandonment. Examining whether technology is contributing to elder abuse or impeding elder abuse is complex due to the multitude of variables that are involved. Technology contributes to elder abuse by increasing the risk of financial exploitation, but it also impedes elder abuse by increasing older adults' mental health and adding innovative, informational systems meant to curb elder abuse.
As technology has advanced, so has the use of technology in financial exploitation of older adults. Online scams and electronic banking fraud disproportionally target older adults. A majority of victims reporting electronic fraud are white women, 75 years of age and older (Greene, 2022). Additionally, the FBI estimates that older adults lose more than 3 billion dollars every year to financial scams, with the main methods of contact being over the phone and online (Gill, 2022). The advanced technology of the 21st century makes it harder to protect older adults from some of the deceptive financial cons that can get to you from anywhere in the world if you are using a device that connects to the internet.
While technology is extending financial exploitation, it can also be used to diminish financial exploitation. This takes place in many forms, including AI software for tracking spending patterns, blocking robocalls and filtering emails (Greene, 2022). Digital safeguards can be implemented to curb some of the financial exploitation; however, it is imperative that future technological projects and evolving reforms should be centered around education, prevention, monitoring, screening, and reporting.
Older adults suffer from numerous hardships that are attributed to a decline in mental health or neurocognitive ability, an increase in bereavement, a drop in socioeconomic status, and an increased risk of loneliness. The most obvious way that technology benefits older adults' mental health is the accessibility of communication. Social media apps and videoconferencing help decrease loneliness and social isolation. Technology can also be used to facilitate online workouts to get older adults to be more active and slow physical decline. Additionally, phone games can be enjoyable, decrease anxiety and depression, and help keep the mind sharp. A recent study published by the International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry found that “the more often people test their minds using mental games, the lower their chances of developing significant neurological issues, such as dementia” (McLean, 2022). Mental health is crucial, especially for older adults, and technology can help people prioritize their mental health.