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Spring 2004 - Focus on Elder Rights

Volume 31 Issue 2  


Civil Rights & Constitution

Gray Areas of the Law: Evolving Issues in Elder Law

The skyrocketing growth in the number of people sixty-five and older in the United States has propelled significant changes and some improvements in areas of law important to the lives of older people. The demographics of an aging population have spurred attorneys to work with other professionals to improve the quality of life available to older Americans. This process has been fueled significantly by the advocacy efforts of organizations like the AARP. As the baby boomers approach retirement, this trend will move at a much faster rate.

Human Rights

Forced Ranking and Age-Related Employment Discrimination

Forced ranking can provide a patina of legitimacy that obscures—perhaps, in some cases, even from the decision makers themselves—the reliance on unfounded stereotypical assumptions about older workers, such as the canard that older workers are resistant to change and innovation and, therefore, cannot adapt to the virtual realities of the computerized twenty-first century workplace, whereas their younger counterparts can do so easily.

Government Benefits

Protecting SSI Benefits for Elderly and Disabled Refugees

Even in the best of circumstances, obtaining citizenship within seven years is very difficult because of the substantial processing backlogs at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS). Those backlogs have been greatly excacerbated by the security measures enacted after September 11. However, most disabled and elderly refugees face additional hurdles on the path to naturalization. For them, learning English and passing the civics test may pose an insurmountable barrier to U.S. citizenship, on which their eligibility to retain their SSI benefits hinges.

Civil Rights & Constitution

Report on the Work of the ABA Commission on Law and Aging

Over the years, the Commission’s mission has been expanded to strengthen and secure the legal rights, dignity, autonomy, quality of life, and quality of care of elders. It now consists of a fifteen-member interdisciplinary body of experts in aging and law. With its professional staff, the Commission examines a broad range of law-related issues pertaining to the rights of older people, including access to the legal system; health and long-term care; housing; Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and other public benefit programs; planning for incapacity; guardianship; elder abuse; healthcare decision making; pain management and end-of-life care; dispute resolution; and court-related needs of older persons with disabilities.


Fighting Age-Related Discrimination in the European Union

Facing many of the same demographic challenges that confront the United States, particularly aging workforces followed by shrinking numbers of younger workers, the European Union (EU) has begun to combat age discrimination in employment. On November 27, 2000, the European Union Council of Ministers adopted the European Directive on Equal Treatment (Directive). This legislation requires all fifteen EU Member States to introduce legislation prohibiting discrimination in employment on the grounds of age, sexual orientation, religion and belief, and disability by December 2, 2003, although they are each permitted to seek a three-year extension to 2006 with regard to the age and disability grounds.