Seniors beware! Many of you are getting ripped off, bilked and milked.

I have been spending some real quality time with my mother, who lives in a “five-star” residence in Nevada. When there last weekend, I came up with the idea of doing a rock opera featuring seniors in their five-star housing. The show will be called, “Five Star, My Ass!”

My mom’s friends love the idea and were already chanting, “My Ass,” every time I gave them a “Five Star?!” From the food to the “vitality center” to the insane rent, it’s all a rip-off. I’ve toured a few of these facilities, and mom’s is better than most, but it’s super-expensive, and five-star is a real stretch.

One thing I found alarming, which has nothing to do with the residence, is the shocking amount of direct-mail solicitations she gets almost every day. Red Cross, Shriners, Harvard Health, veteran-service organizations, investment opportunities, puppies, and the list goes on and on. A lot of them send catalogs and magazines and address stickers and tons of junk that piles up, up, up. It took me two days just to sort the pile of mail, dump the junk and find the legitimate bills. The amount of trees being felled in this senior-citizen fishing expedition is shocking.

I found a bill that she received for an hour with a lawyer for “estate planning.” That cost her $350. She said she was surprised, because she thought it was going to be $400. Seems reasonable. That’s what I get for an hour of “work.”

In my opinion a “five-star” housing complex should offer wireless internet to the residents. Not mom’s place. Everyone has their own setup and is paying a fortune for their TVs, phones and internet. A check of available wireless connections shows dozens and dozens of private setups. My favorite, “IthurtzwhenIP.” Mom decided not to pay extra for the web, so she’s offline. She does have a landline which occasionally rings with further solicitations, or there’s ominous silence when you answer it. Unsettling for a senior citizen.

Mom points out that the entire staff at her residence keeps turning over. It’s a nice place, but corporate suits are making all the money while the hardworking staff on the ground can’t make it on the no-star wages. Typical.

And medicine? Doctors are delighted to schedule plenty of unneeded appointments, tests, pokes and prods. My mom’s closet is full of untouched apparatus, pills, inhalers, vitamins and pamphlets on everything from macular degeneration to diets. I was overwhelmed, and I still have almost all of my marbles. A senior living on her own at the mercy of the system is going to get taken for a ride and eventually spend every red cent if they are not careful and on top of it. Plus, if they take all those meds, they are going to stumble around in a stupor and then die. I know many doctors are not making a killing on seniors on Medicare but someone is selling all these treatments, drugs and machines to the unwitting and untethered.

Maybe most seniors don’t want to eat well, but the food they offer these folks in places like mom’s is often full of salt, sugar and preservatives, hardly five star. If there are no healthy food options there can be no health.

Despite the soul-crushing conditions and stale air, most people in there have a fairly positive attitude. There are pockets of joy to be found. Taking a little doggie for a walk, shuffling around in a walker, socializing with friends, almost everyone you ask says they are fine.

The real hotspot is the bar, of course. There’s a fine line when the booze hits the system and the conversation flares and the lights in the eyes sparkle. After getting through the years and losing so much, if you want a drink, you should have one. Every time I visit mom, she reserves the private dining room, and I give a little concert for her friends. They love it, and I love them.

As you would expect, most residents are women. Men just don’t live as long. Some elderly women, like my mom, were taken care of by the men in their lives and were thrust into new responsibilities when they were least able to take them on. My dad did something right, because he’s been gone for over 14 years and my mom is still able to afford her five-star accommodations. Thanks, dad.

Thankfully, my brother lives in the area, as does his daughter and granddaughter. Otherwise I’d have to move out of the Fraser Valley just to keep an eye on things in Reno.

Steve Skinner has empathy for seniors and those who serve them. Reach him at