The second lesson is that the moonshot brought countless numbers of American industries together all focused on the overall mission of sending a person to the moon. For example, some of the strongest aviation companies, which often are fierce competitors, collaborated across a number of key engineering elements to help the Apollo mission succeed. Among the prime contractors were companies such as Boeing, Douglas Aircraft, and Grumman Corporation, which all put aside their day-to-day airline production competitions to help America to the moon.
By contrast, in the fight against elder financial abuse, coordination is often lacking. Although one private securities brokerage regulator has come up with a nationwide initiative to fight elder abuse, there is virtually no effective federal regulation. A number of states have come up with approaches to combating abuse, but the approaches often vary, with some states covering banks and brokerage firms while others cover only one, or none, of these financial institutions. Even in the field of financial technology, where a growing number of firms are advancing innovative concepts that could aid in the fight against elder financial exploitation, there is a missing element. Many of the innovators often focus on their product as the sole solution, rarely stopping to consider whether, in collaboration with other existing products or new innovations, they could create a comprehensive approach to the elder financial abuse problem. It would be as if an innovator in the 1960s focused solely on his or her own creation for boots for the moonwalk. The mission was not to send boots to the moon but to work with others to create a suit, visor, helmet, and other items, as well as boots, that would allow Americans to successfully explore the moon’s surface. Similarly, we need a complete, multifaceted solution to combat the exploitation targeting older Americans.
Finally, the third lesson we should take from the moonshot is to engage in current, consistent, and convincing messaging. Richard Jurek, coauthor of Marketing the Moon: The Selling of the Apollo Lunar Program, indicates that the public relations work of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) made the moon landing “the first positive viral event that captured the world’s attention.” The country was fully aware of the lunar effort, and the public relations work of NASA resulted in estimates of a half billion people around the world watching that first moon landing. In contrast, the messaging in the elder financial abuse fight is often disjointed and episodic. For over the past dozen years or so, many recognize June 15 as World Elder Abuse Awareness Day. While that is helpful, it seems important that there should be messaging and collaboration throughout the year instead of on a single day. Government-sponsored public service announcements, social media engagement, coordinated messaging by financial firms, educational awareness, and other efforts can all serve to raise the public’s consciousness about the enormity of the problem and engage the public in supporting effective solutions. For example, in 2018, California’s Department of Social Services conducted a competition for high school and college students, respectively, to create posters or other media concerning elder and dependent adult abuse. A moonshot could encompass such an effort, and more, nationwide.
While it often recognizes elder financial exploitation as a growing challenge, American society has in no way made the commitment to battle the elements that make for this problem on multiple fronts. By establishing a moonshot philosophy, society will make a bold statement that it intends to tackle this assault on the financial well-being of older Americans across a myriad of fronts and with an intensity not exhibited to date. It is just such a broad engagement that likely will help drive meaningful and lasting solutions to our elder financial abuse problem.