A new study finds that older people are suffering the brunt of the bankruptcy and credit crisis. Among the key findings of the AARP-sponsored study, released this week:


* The rate of bankruptcy filings among those ages 65 and older has more than doubled since 1991.

* Americans age 55 or older have experienced the sharpest increase in bankruptcy filings.

* Americans age 34 or younger have experienced the greatest decrease in bankruptcy filings.

Adding fuel to the bankruptcy fire are predatory lending practices. The Center for Responsible Lending released a study today showing that badly-designed bank "overdraft protection" plans alone strip an estimated $1 billion in wealth from people aged 55 and over each year.

How does this happen? Banks and credit unions automatically enroll customers in unauthorized "overdraft protection" plans that are designed to maximize fees -- usually around $30 a pop. As the Center argues:

Older Americans, like others, want the option to avoid unauthorized overdrafts and would rather be declined at the checkout if their debit card purchase would trigger a fee over $30. Their precious-and protected-Social Security benefits should not be confiscated to pay fees for essentially a loan they didn't ask for and often don't want.