Jan. 5, 2011 -- Actor Berni Padden may be 94 years-old, but he is sharp as a tack -- and known for keeping the "What Would You Do" staff in hysterics with his occasionally off-color jokes. Unfortunately, not everyone appreciates how much senior citizens like Berni have to offer. Too many headlines report stories of seniors being taken advantage of and even abused, often behind closed doors.
We wondered what would happen if people saw an elderly man being harassed in plain view. Would anyone come to his rescue?
We took our "What Would You Do?" hidden cameras to Montclair, N.J. where we asked our elderly actor to walk down busy Bloomfield Avenue. We then enlisted a group of teenage actors to play boys who confront Berni along his path, instructing them to taunt him, call him names and even take away his walker.
'Leave Him Alone'
Almost immediately, two men approached the teens, one telling them to, "Knock it off. Leave him alone." When the teens responded that they were just having fun and that the men should calm down, the first man got more forceful, and told the teens to "Take off."
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The situation escalated when one of our teen actors took away Berni's walker, prompting the man to say, "Dude, you're taking his stuff. That's not cool."
Once again, our teen actor replied, "It's a joke. Calm down."
But the men weren't laughing.
Pointing to the skateboard our teen actor was holding, one of the men asked, "Is it a joke if I take your board?" With that, the teen dropped the skateboard, only to have the man pick it up and throw it into the bushes before walking away.
Of course, the men had no idea their intervention was being captured by our hidden cameras as we watched from a nearby truck.
'You're Not Going To Like It'
Moments later, as the boys continued to make fun of Berni, two women approached to try to teach them a lesson.
"That's not nice," Allyson Marchan told the teenagers.
Meanwhile, Sandra Smith calmly explained, "What's going to happen when you get older, people are going to treat you the same way, and you're not going to like it."
But when one of our teens tried to take Berni's walker which was right in front of Smith, she reacted strongly. "Leave it alone now," she said as she put a hand on it. "I said leave it alone."
Once we revealed ourselves, Smith told us she got involved because, "I just see a lot of elderly people on the street and when I see them it's like, wow, you know, they're really alone. And that bothers me."
Will Anyone Help An Elderly Woman?
We decided to see what would happen if we replaced our elderly man with an elderly woman.
Robert and Liz Marzuli were quick to step in to help.
"Are you on crack?" Liz Marzuli asked our teens.
When the boys tried to tell her the elderly woman was laughing just moments before, Liz added, "I'm not going to be laughing in a minute. I'm going to call the [expletive] police. OK? Get the heck out of here."
Of course, the police already knew we were there.
Moments later, Britain Cross jumped in to help, asking the teens, "What if I call a couple of my homies and we just trash y'all right now? Then what? Then what you gonna say? She could be your grandmother."
Cross later told us, "[The elderly] have so much wisdom. They taught us. We learn from each other. Old people, they're great. I kind of love them."
He also told us he got off the bus to get involved, even though it wasn't his stop.
Here Come the Mean Girls
We decided to mix things up once again by giving our bullying boys a break and sending in two teenage girls.
On this day, we found that not everyone decided to stand up to our teens. One man passed by twice, later telling us that he had been debating what to say until someone else finally stepped in.
Moments later, a woman walked right by, without even slowing down. She later told us that ignoring what she heard probably wasn't very nice.
Our 94 year-old actor, Berni, hopes viewers who watch our scenario will be more willing to step in. "There are very, very few of us left," he said. "Please give us a chance to live our lives out in peace and love, no hate. And don't walk away, because this concerns you too."