Heather Willard / NewsBreak Denver / Nov. 10, 2022

(Douglas County, Colo.) The Douglas County Sheriff’s Office created a new position to serve the needs of its growing older adult population.

Deputy Ryan Falkner, a 15-year veteran of the office, has taken on the role of Senior Resource Deputy as part of the Community Resource Unit.

Falkner is meeting with seniors across the county, visiting them at various events and locations to build rapport and gauge what issues concern this age group most.

Falkner said community resource deputies reviewed Douglas County’s demographics and saw the dramatic growth in the older adult population, which is projected to continue.

According to current U.S. Census data, over 13% of the county’s residents are 65-years or older. In 2010, the U.S. Census found about 7.1% (20,343 residents) were 65 years and over — also an increase from the previous decennial census in 2000, where 4% of residents identified as 65 or older.

Falkner said Sheriff Tony Spurlock agreed to the Senior Resource position because of how important it is to inform citizens on how to minimize victimization.

“The Sheriff created this position to inform the seniors in an effort to protect themselves — the knowledge is power approach,” Falkner said. “This can be done in multiple ways; a formal group presentation, one on one consultations, coffee with a cop, pamphlets or flier information, fairs/events, or social media.”

Falkner will distribute information, and asked DougCo residents to send him ideas for how best to connect with seniors.

“It does not have to be seniors only, many people care for their parents, grandparents,” Falkner said. “I intend to help them as well.”

Much of his work focuses on scams, since those criminals often take advantage of older adults. He asked citizens to share scams widely and “popularize” the traits to help protect citizens.

According to a study published in the National Library of Medicine, older adults with dementia are more susceptible to scams.

The FBI says some of the most common scams targeting older Americans include:

  • Romance scam — Criminals pose as interested romantic partners on social media or dating websites in order to obtain money from the victim.
  • Tech support scam — Criminals pose as technology support representatives and offer to fix non-existent computer issues, such as computer viruses or hacked accounts.
  • Grandparent Scam — Criminals pose as a relative, usually a child or grandchild, claiming to be in immediate financial need.
  • Governmental impersonation scam — Scammers pose as government employees and threaten to arrest or prosecute victims unless they agree to pay.

To help ensure you don’t get taken advantage of, the FBI recommends:

  • Resisting pressure to act quickly. A sense of urgency is used to instill fear and immediate action.
  • Being cautious of unsolicited phone calls, mailings and door-to-door service offers
  • Never wiring money to persons or businesses you have only met online. Verify any email request for money
  • Not opening emails or clicking on attachments or links you do not recognize or were not expecting.
  • Researching online and social media advertisements before purchase to determine if a product or company is legitimate.

Falkner works to ensure he’s aware of other crime trends and works closely with the Elderly Crimes Detectives, which are new as well.

He shares information with other deputies to ensure they can share information regarding elder abuse, scams and other crimes with the community. The deputy also communicates with every retirement and nursing home facility in the county to schedule , and in so doing he is scheduling presentations throughout the region.

“I have also partnered with South Metro Fire Department in an effort to show the community that all first responders care for our senior citizens and many non-profit organizations have been very helpful with the resources they offer,” Falkner said. “The senior community is very caring and kind, they deserve the best out of the Sheriff’s Office. I intend to give them 100% of my attention. I want those in our senior population and those that care for them to feel confident enough that they can call me anytime they have a question or concern.”

Falkner also recommended younger residents connect with older adults.

“These times are known as ‘the throw away culture,’” he said. “A TV breaks — throw it away and buy a new one. Refrigerator, same thing. So much of our culture is about replacing something, not taking care of it.

“Many seniors feel forgotten,” he continued. “If the community wants to help the older generations, don’t ignore them. Listen to them, they are wonderful people with great stories. Take time to meet them, go to events, be a part of their lives, interact with them.

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