Financial Safety & Health Initiative

Keeping Older Adults Safe

Peter Lichtenberg, PhD
Director, Institute of Gerontology
Geriatric Neuropsychology

Dr. Lichtenberg has worked with older adults for 36 years as a clinician, researcher, program director and national leader. Under Dr. Lichtenberg's leadership, the IOG has won record levels of research funding, and created a community engagement program that served more than 30,000 older adults and professionals in 2021 alone.  Dr. Lichtenberg was elected the 2021 president of the Gerontological Society of America, the world's leading gerontology research organization. He won the won the 2020 Specialty Board Award in Geropsychology from the American Board of Professional Psychology, and also a 2021 Exemplary Service Award for his extraordinary contributions to aging services in Michigan.

Dr. Lichtenberg is nationally known for his work on financial decision-making, capacity, vulnerability and undue influence in older adults. He launched, a free, easy-to-navigate website that helps older adults, and the professionals and caregivers who help them, assess their financial decision-making and vulnerability to exploitation. Dr. Lichtenberg has won more than $2,000,000 in grant awards and donations for his financial gerontology work from groups such as the National Institute of Justice, the Michigan Aging and Adult Services, the Michigan Health Endowment Fund, and the Retirement Research Foundation.

Dr. Lichtenberg has authored nine books and authored or co-authored 218 peer-reviewed journal articles and book chapters on topics including financial decision-making, mental health in long-term care, geriatric depression, and Alzheimer's disease. He has conducted independent medical evaluations and expert witness work more than 200 times on issues related to older adults, capacity and undue influence.

LaToya Hall, MSW
SAFE Program Director

Ms. Hall directs the Successful Aging thru Financial Empowerment (SAFE) program at the IOG, a free financial coaching, fraud prevention and identity recovery service for older adults and caregivers. Ms. Hall has dedicated her career to advancing research and service delivery to promote positive financial decision-making, while addressing the factors that influence the financial decisions, retirement security and health disparities of older adult minorities. In the past two years, she has authored four peer-reviewed journal articles on finances, coaching and vulnerable older populations.

SAFE was launched in 2017 to educate seniors and caregivers on protecting finances against the fast-growing threat of fraud and exploitation. Ms. Hall provides free one-on-one assistance to help seniors recover financially and emotionally after being victimized by financial scams or identity theft. (Since March of 2020, all SAFE services have been offered via Zoom and Facebook live.) 

SAFE resources include booklets on credit (pdf)retirement (pdf) and household finances (pdf) and virtual workshops on scams, managing someone else's money and having difficult conversations about finances. SAFE services were recently expanded to clients in the Upper Peninsula and North Carolina. The Hillsdale County Senior Services Center (pdf) in Michigan now offers the full array of SAFE services and resources through a two-year grant from the U.S. Department of Justice. Since its inception, SAFE has saved or recovered more than $120,000 for victims of scams and identity theft.

Grant Details

The Center for Financial Safety and Health: A Critical Ingredient for Protecting Neurocognitive and Emotional Health in Older Adults
Peter Lichtenberg, PI. This is a two-year grant (beginning 3/1/2017) of $334,000 from the Michigan Health Endowment Fund to bring evidence-based financial protection services to Michigan's older adults. Based on the nationally recognized Lifespan Elder Abuse Prevention Program, the center has created Success after Financial Exploitation (SAFE).  SAFE will provide free presentations, educational workshops and one-on-one assistance to protect from financial scams and to recover from identity theft. This project builds on Dr. Lichtenberg's long-running research into financial decision-making and vulnerabilities for exploitation in older adults.

Online Evidence-based Assessments of Financial Decision-Making in Older Adults
Peter Lichtenberg, PI. The Michigan Aging and Adult Services PRVNT program granted $110,000 for the creation of secure desktop and mobile platform websites to detect, assess and prevent financial decision-making problems. This grant continues Dr. Lichtenberg's work with evidence- based assessment instruments for professional em- ployees of Adult Protective Services and the legal and financial sectors to detect vulnerabilities in the financial decision-making process. It expands the program to all Michigan counties.

Integrating Improved Assessments of Financial Judgment
Peter Lichtenberg, PI. A three-year grant of $468,000 from the National Institute of Justice to validate new screening tools to determine the capacity of older adults to make financial decisions 
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