Not Just for Kids
By Beth Niestat
Illustration by Barbara Pollak

Joan* was over 80 years old when she transferred ownership of her entire stock portfolio to a cult leader. Bob and Marjorie Mottola were in their sixties when they finally ended their 35-year affiliation with a yoga-based cult in New York after allegations of sexual manipulation and exploitation began to surface. The stories of these people are becoming more and more common among senior citizens as cult recruitment is focused increasingly on the elderly and as the countless young people who joined cults during the counterculture heyday of the 1960s now find themselves entering their retirement years.
Bob and Marjorie were 30 and 26, respectively, when they met Duncan Roderick*, the man who would become their guru. Suffering from back problems, Bob found Roderick while looking for a chiropractor. Roderick, who was leading yoga classes that Bob and his wife Marjorie took, befriended the couple, and in Bob's words, they began a "social relationship." As the group of yoga students grew, Bob says, he and Marjorie increased their involvement, spending much of their free time at Roderick's new house. The group, with young and old alike, had at least two cult members who were well into their nineties.
The Mottolas' opinion of Roderick and his cult began to sour three years ago when two women came forward and accused Roderick of sexual abuse. Marjorie then confided in Bob that she, too, had been involved sexually with Roderick in the early days of their cult membership, and that, in fact, two of the Mottolas' children were fathered by Roderick. They immediately left the group and have been involved in legal battles with the cult since then, although they have met with little success. Their daughter, whom they claim Roderick wed when she was only 12, remains in the cult. Bob, now 68, is in the process of writing a book, The Evolution of a Destructive Cult, about their cult experience.