People with dementia might be in danger from telephone scams. The U.K.'s got a neat fix.

Richard Guthrie, 92, said he took the scammer's phone calls because he was lonely.

In 2007, the New York Times covered a spate of phone scams targeting the elderly. Guthrie, a widower and Purple Heart veteran, was one of them. In the end, he lost all of his savings — including the money he was planning to give to his great-grandkids for college — to telephone scams.

Unfortunately, Guthrie's case isn't unique. Senior citizens lose about $2.9 billion each year (each year!) from financial scams and abuse, according to a 2011 report by MetLife.


Image via iStock.

There are a number of reasons scammers target the elderly. They often have savings, for instance, and can be reluctant to contact the authorities if they are victims.

Even more dastardly, scammers often target people with dementia. The medical condition hits more than 1 in 20 seniors, taking a heavy toll on them and their caretakers — before having to worry about scammers.

So wouldn't it be great if there were a simple solution to all this?

The United Kingdom has a pretty interesting idea on how to stop the calls altogether.

On April 6, the U.K. announced it would fund the rollout of a call-blocking device to about 1,500 people, according to the The Guardian.

The small device, known as trueCall, plugs in between a phone and wall outlet. Once installed, it can block recorded messages, silent calls, or calls from unknown numbers.

The initial rollout will go to people such as dementia patients who have been identified by their doctor as especially vulnerable.

“We have seen people tricked out of thousands of pounds by scam callers, and this government is determined to clamp down on their activities once and for all,” Prime Minister Theresa May said while announcing the fund.

This is could be a big "take that!" at granny-defrauding, savings-stealing scammers.

Nobody deserves to have their life savings whittled away — not people who should be entering their golden years, like Guthrie, and especially not people and families who are already shouldering the toll dementia can take.

Hopefully, this new solution will help those 1,500 families breathe a little easier.

Heroes

Disney has come under fire for problematic portrayals of non-white and non-western cultures in many of its older movies. They aren't the only one, of course, but since their movies are an iconic part of most American kids' childhoods, Disney's messaging holds a lot of power.

Fortunately, that power can be used for good, and Disney can serve as an example to other companies if they learn from their mistakes, account for their misdeeds, and do the right thing going forward. Without getting too many hopes up, it appears that the entertainment giant may have actually done just that with the new Frozen II film.

According to NOW Toronto, the producers of Frozen II have entered into a contract with the Sámi people—the Indigenous people of the Scandinavian regions—to ensure that they portray the culture with respect.

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Though there was not a direct portrayal of the Sámi in the first Frozen movie, the choral chant that opens the film was inspired by an ancient Sámi vocal tradition. In addition, the clothing worn by Kristoff closely resembled what a Sámi reindeer herder would wear. The inclusion of these elements of Sámi culture with no context or acknowledgement sparked conversations about cultural appropriation and erasure on social media.

Frozen II features Indigenous culture much more directly, and even addressed the issue of Indigenous erasure. Filmmakers Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck, along with producer Peter Del Vecho, consulted with experts on how to do that respectfully—the experts, of course, being the Sámi people themselves.

Sámi leaders met with Disney producer Peter Del Vecho in September 2019.Sámediggi Sametinget/Flickr

The Sámi parliaments of Norway, Sweden and Finland, and the non-governmental Saami Council reached out to the filmmakers when they found out their culture would be highlighted in the film. They formed a Sámi expert advisory group, called Verddet, to assist filmmakers in with how to accurately and respectfully portray Sámi culture, history, and society.

In a contract signed by Walt Disney Animation Studios and Sámi leaders, the Sámi stated their position that "their collective and individual culture, including aesthetic elements, music, language, stories, histories, and other traditional cultural expressions are property that belong to the Sámi," and "that to adequately respect the rights that the Sámi have to and in their culture, it is necessary to ensure sensitivity, allow for free, prior, and informed consent, and ensure that adequate benefit sharing is employed."

RELATED: This aboriginal Australian used kindness and tea to trump the racism he overheard.

Disney agreed to work with the advisory group, to produce a version of Frozen II in one Sámi language, as well as to "pursue cross-learning opportunities" and "arrange for contributions back to the Sámi society."

Anne Lájla Utsi, managing director at the International Sámi Film Institute, was part of the Verddet advisory group. She told NOW, "This is a good example of how a big, international company like Disney acknowledges the fact that we own our own culture and stories. It hasn't happened before."

"Disney's team really wanted to make it right," said Utsi. "They didn't want to make any mistakes or hurt anybody. We felt that they took it seriously. And the film shows that. We in Verddet are truly proud of this collaboration."

Sounds like you've done well this time, Disney. Let's hope such cultural sensitivity and collaboration continues, and that other filmmakers and production companies will follow suit.

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