Opaque Elder Abuse


Opaque Elder Abuse

This is a living page, established May 28, 2024; last updated: 05/28/24 
Researched, lived & written by LinDee Rochelle
@BlastFromPastBk (Blast from Your Past books & blog)

Some abuse skirts the definitions of legalities. This story is about what really happens when a large company and a government agency do something in the name of “enhancement” or progress that is truly a definition of “it isn’t personal, just business.”

Elder Advocacy ~ Is it Elder Abuse or just repugnant Abuse of Power?

(If you’ve read this intro on the Elder Advocacy links page, feel free to scroll past it to “ABO Stole Years from Our Lives” for continuing story …)

A real life experience. See the menu page Elder Advocacy to access links for Elders and their advocates to help navigate the waves of Senior life. 

It begins with a personal experience of what would seem a simple matter of extensive apartment renovations. However, throughout the process, Seniors and citizens dealing with disabilities, are losing precious days of their lives and what health they have being sabotaged—all in the name of “business.” 

Or are we (there are 200+ affected in my apartment building) just “lucky” with our particular brand of apartment building owners? Is this abhorrent practice happening elsewhere? Skirting the legal definition of elder abuse doesn’t make it okay and amounts to Opaque Elder Abuse.

Mini case description:

  • Picture a 14-story (approx. 8-10 units per floor) apartment building comprised of 198 HUD-subsidized apartments for low-income Seniors (62+ to 100 years old) and disadvantaged with disabilities.
  • Apartment building owners (a group—subsequently referred to as ABO) chose to renovate the 48-year-old building (not the first time it’s been done) inside and out, in a top floor-to-bottom-floor major renovation project.
    • It is stated in a memo that it is mandatory for ALL residents to completely move out of their homes; their belongings must be boxed and ready to store on-property. “Please be assured that we will make every effort for this to be as stress-free as possible. … a Relocation Coordinator will be on site to help you every step of the way.” (Rec’d memo August 31, 2023.)
    • I am on the 13th floor (yes, the building actually has superstition linked with it!) and the second floor to struggle with the move-out / move-in experience.
    • For myself, in February 2024, I was dancing during my son’s wedding reception, with no major aches or pains. My move-out was scheduled for April 17 to return on April 26th.
      • Shortly after my son’s wedding, I began packing, lifting 40-50# boxes, moving them around the small studio apartment to allow maneuvering.
      • For a 75-year-old woman, the stress, strain, and physical exertion proved to be devastating. When I asked the “Relocation Coordinator” for assistance, she suggested I enlist the help of friends and relatives … seriously?!
        • This was NOT my project—it was THEIR mandate—and that was their way of handling it. I was NOT about to ask friends and relatives—all of whom have jobs—to spend their vacation or personal days, or even day-off weekends, to assist in a BUSINESS PROJECT, not of my choice.
        • By the time I moved out, I was shaky, my health and energy were flagging, and my left hip was so painful, I could barely walk.
        • And then, I had to move back in … again, lifting, unpacking, etc.
        • I continue to experience pain in my hip (and knee) and am (as of this writing) waiting for x-ray results.
        • In conversation with several other residents of the building, I learned I am not the only one to experience deteriorating health because of this move.
    • Upon return to our apartments—14th and 13th floors—there was an “inspection” of “randomly selected apartments” with “a representative from Berkadia” (though I knew mine would not be chosen because I am too outspoken), like we’re supposed to know who they are, coming into our homes. No explanatory text was included in the memo:  
      • per Wiki—Berkadia Commercial Mortgage (50/50 joint venture with Berkshire Hathaway) - commercial mortgage banking, investment sales and servicing. They are owned by an American financial services company, “Jefferies Group (100%) - investment banking & capital markets” based in New York City and listed as a Fortune 1000 company (w/7000+ employees; 2023).

Primary questions: Is Berkadia looking to buy out ABO, or add them to their current roster of companies, or buy this building and move its holdings to one of theirs? Regardless, their inspection spoke to the bottom line of why we had to endure such life-altering pain at advanced ages, already short on our two most valuable assets to elders: energy and “time”.

For them, it’s a win-win: ABO keeps their properties maintained for business ventures, while getting full market value for them, with HUD subsidies. Being a government bureaucracy, HUD believes they’re doing a service for low-income seniors. Sure, they are—if you just consider senior citizens proverbial “numbers” in your projects. We’re not numbers—we’re living, breathing, loving, family and community members, and plain folks just trying to have “a little life.”

ABO Stole Years from Our Lives  

The effects on residents: 

Sure, this may have seemed like a good idea (and the ABO said in 2023, they had done it to another [downtown] building of seniors), so they could “standardize” apartment elements for easier (and cheaper) repairs and replacements. As usual, everything about this type of project has been based on the almighty dollar. Nevermind the affects on residents.

With so much recent focus on the “rights of people,” it’s appalling that the needs and rights of the residents were barely considered.

To be expected, a myriad of people populate this building. Every conceivable race, elder age, and physical/mental state of ailments reside here.

So, tell me—how could the ABO possibly address the scope of needs for their tenants and keep their costs LOW throughout this abominable project? Answer: they couldn’t and they didn’t.

As with any community of people, the building saw people come and go, some making a flamboyant mark in its politics, camaraderie and environment. Others just came and went, with barely a sound. I arrived unremarkably, during the December holiday festivities of 2022.

I quickly learned that the elevators were the gossip centers. Everyone wanted to know who the new person was and which floor and apartment I would claim as “home.” Some showed more interest over the past year-plus, but I also soon realized the friendship cliques had been forged over many years’ time. Most of the 200+ residents don’t know my name. That’s OK. As a writer, I have often skirted the fringes and generally cater to a solitary lifestyle.

Whether I participate or simply watch, however, I do observe. I became mildly conversant with a few people on my floor, though apparently Covid stunted the building’s turnover and I became one of the earliest to gain entry when moving began moving forward.

But there are those who have lived in the same apartment of this building for ten-to-twenty-plus years. Since new residents are privileged with unit upgrades as they become vacant and filled again, myself included, the notice of extensive renovations, received August 31, 2023, was confusing and disconcerting. I had literally just finished with the last of my move-in boxes (December of 2022) and had most everything put in its place. All that was left was to hang pictures.

I (and other new residents [within past six months] I spoke to on the elevator) hoped the move-out mentioned in the renovations memo would not include us. Our units were updated with the “latest and greatest” before we moved in.

I’m sure there is no easy or affordable way to renovate an apartment building. But there must be a better way—especially for the elderly and physically/mentally challenged—one that considers the residents FIRST and the bottom line second. Or, for the ABO, as the old saying goes … If you can’t take the heat, get out of the kitchen. 

Here’s OUR bottom line: apartment building owners will not stop shortening the lives of their residents until somebody dies on their watch. But then, they’ll argue, the residents are going to die soon, anyway, so what’s the difference?

Ask my sons how much difference a day, a month, another year makes? They (thankfully) want their mother around—physically and mentally—as long as possible.



Her shiny gray and black short hair was coiled in rows of loose curls that framed her tired face. She was barely taller than the shopping cart’s handrail—or perhaps she looked shorter, hunched over it. The cart was heaped with belongings she obviously didn’t want to leave to the movers. A younger man stood behind her, his hands maneuvering three suitcases. It was her day to move out for ten days.

As she tried to move the cart over the elevator lip, it stalled from the weight of her load. I reached forward and grabbed the front of the cart to help her in; but it took both of my hands, while I held my basket of laundry. We got her in and the man with the luggage said he’d take the next elevator. We were full.

I smiled at the woman as she made the effort to look up at me. “Thank you.” She paused with a heavy sigh. “I think this is the hardest thing I have ever done.” Considering her age (likely 80+), that says a lot.

More as notes are reviewed …