Elderly shopaholic found dead under pile of clothes

How should you spend your retirement money? For years, senior citizens have been overspending and accumulating more debt, according to a recent study by Demos, a non-partisan public policy group. Such overspending can lead to financial death, or as one unusual story shows, lead to complications with the other kind.

The BBC News reports that, in January, Joan Cunnane died at age 77 of natural causes at her home in England. She had bronchial pneumonia and cancer and lived alone in unusual conditions.

Friends say that Cunnane was a compulsive shopper for years. After five search attempts, her body was finally found buried under clothing and other purchased items.

Cunnane started shopping to avoid neighborhood kids who once meddled around her home. She feared these loitering youth and spent the day shopping, leaving her home in the morning to come back at night, as though working a full-time job. She told friends that shopping made her feel good.

But years of accumulation filled her small bungalow to the rafters, and after a while, she refused to let friends in at all.

After the 2008 Christmas holiday, friends and neighbors no longer saw Cunnane go about her shopping sprees. Her disappearance caused one friend to worry. He visited her home and noticed the door left slightly opened. To his surprise, Cunnane's bungalow was stacked from floor to ceiling with purchases. He was unable to locate Cunnane and got no response. On Jan. 6, neighbors called the police, who made an unsuccessful search due to the crowd of items. They returned the next day with a truck and cleared out the premises, finally locating Miss Cunnane's dead body.

This is a very sad story with an important message: the elderly need better options. Many businesses target the elderly because they have the time and money, thus making them the ultimate consumer, much like teens. Community centers should be touted as alternatives for lonely seniors and provide financial planners to help them resist over-spending, especially when it comes to filling emotional voids.

My great grandmother is retired and now she visits the casino once a week with her friends. I think there can be better ways to use your money during retirement. I'll leave this open for discussion. Leave a comment.
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