New Bill Offers Protection for Seniors

August 10, 2010

Whether you are a senior, have volunteered at a senior center or have an older family member who is active in their community, you are likely familiar with the many activities that are available at senior centers. From bingo nights to day trips to weekend trips, senior centers provide older adults an opportunity to spend time with their friends exploring new opportunities and trying new things.

Earlier this year, however, it was brought to my attention that information about these trips may be getting into the wrong hands. Any person could request a list of individuals participating in activities at a senior center through the Freedom of Information Act process and there was proof that these lists were being requested by individuals seeking to solicit business from seniors. HB 5278, An Act Concerning Senior Centers and the Freedom of Information Act was aimed at protecting seniors from individuals abusing the Freedom of Information Act for predatory purposes.

Even more troubling than unwanted business solicitations, was the notion that an individual with more sinister motives had access to the list of seniors participating in an activity. It is no secret that seniors are often targets of scams, but if a dishonest person were to gain knowledge that a senior was out of town for the day, they could become more than just the victim of a scam. We all go to great lengths to ensure our homes are secured when we go away, but the truth is, where there is a will, there’s a way.

Senior centers often post public notices about trips for seniors, whether it be a sight seeing tour in New York City or a trip to Foxwoods or Mohegan Sun. Under the law as it stood prior to May, a predator could easily gain access to the list of seniors going on such a trip and use that knowledge to burglarize their home.

Seniors should not have to worry that information about their travel plans and activities will get into the wrong hands. As ranking senator on the Select Committee on Aging, I strongly supported HB 5278 and was pleased to see it pass unanimously out of both the House and Senate and had the honor to attend the ceremonial bill signing by Governor Rell.

Seniors and senior centers can now be rest assured that the names and addresses of members of senior centers and participants in senior center programs will be excluded from Freedom of Information Act disclosure requirements.