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Balancing Independence and Vulnerability of Older Adults | Synopsis

Jul 30, 2019 | Podcasts

Balancing Independence and Vulnerability of Older Adults: What if Granny Wants to Gamble?” is a three-part special:

  • Synopsis (this podcast): An introduction and overview to lecture.
  • Part 1: Discusses women’s differing longevity and the differences in how men and women manage finances later in life.
  • Part 2: Will talk about elder financial abuse and the perpetrators.
  • Part 3: The final part will recommend steps that lawyers can take to protect autonomy of older adults, especially women.

Transcript/Show Notes

“Balancing Independence and Vulnerability of Older Adults,” that is the subject of today’s ACTEC Trust and Estate Talk.

This is Doug Stanley, ACTEC Fellow from St. Louis. Professor Mary Radford, ACTEC fellow from Atlanta, Georgia, will be discussing these issues for older adults. Welcome, Mary.

Thank you, Doug. The subtitle of my talk is “What if granny wants to gamble?” and my talk is about balancing the issues that we are going to face as attorneys when we have clients who do want to engage in behaviours that we might not think advisable. So, in my talk, I start with just an overview of what Americans look like today, and we are graying. There is no question about that. The 85 plus, in terms of age, is the fastest growing demographic in our society. And then I focus on the fact that this has become more of a women’s issue than an overall societal issue, primarily because women are living longer. So even though the general proportion between men and women in our society is about 50:50, by the time people reach age 85, there are about twice as many women still alive as there are men and many of these women are alone. They do not have families; they do not have support groups.

So, another statistic that I pointed out is that by age 75 almost half of women are living alone. So, this makes them vulnerable to elder abuse, obviously, in particularly and for purposes of my talk to elder financial abuse or what some people call elder financial exploitation. And this can range from anything between the stranger who sends the email to try to get your private information to your personal caregiver, to members of the family. And I talk a bit in this talk about the various ways in which this elder abuse is perpetrated. And society is waking up to this problem, which is good, and we are passing laws, and the most prevalent of those laws are called the reporting laws.

So, every state has a law that requires certain people to report suspected elder abuse, but the danger, in my mind, of our societal reaction is that we are going to go overboard and we are going to over protect, and that these laws are going to be overly inclusive so that they are basically going to stereotype all older people, older women as being frail and feeble and susceptible, and they are going to forget that there are lots of women still out there who are capable of making their own decisions and who still have capacity. They may have eccentricities and they might want to engage in behaviour that we would not consider advisable or we might even think it is downright stupid, but the point of my talk is that if this granny wants to leave her estate to the society for the prevention of cruelty to cockroaches, and she has capacity, then she should have the freedom to do so. That we should not stand in her way.

So, this is the balancing act. It is protecting those who are truly vulnerable, and of course, dementia is causing a lot of vulnerability in this day and age. While on the other hand, protecting the autonomy of those who still do have the capacity to make choices again, regardless of what we think of their choices. So, we have to stifle our urge to over protect everybody in the notion that again, we have to separate out the women in our society, the people in our society, who still do have capacity. And maybe the simplest way for us to do this is to look at the actions and judge them by the actions themselves, as opposed to judging them by the age of someone who is performing the action. So, in other words, if granny is over age 65, and she likes to gamble, would we treat her differently than if she were a 25-year-old man who also liked to gamble. And again, my hope is that this talk will cause people to think of this problem in an arena other than simply chronological age. So, I am looking forward to giving the talk and I hope people will listen to it and maybe even get something out of it. Thanks, Doug.

Thank you, Mary. Thank you for previewing your Trachtman Lecture for our audience.

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