(The pdf for the issue in which this article appears is available for download: Bifocal, Vol. 41, Issue 3.)
May 1 is dubbed by the ABA as Law Day and May is also Older Americans Month. Every year in May the Administration for Community Living celebrates older adults, which makes May the perfect time to host an Elder Law Day event.
Estate planning. Financial scams. Guardianship. Long-term care planning. Advance directives. These are among the topics that draw thousands of seniors and their families to Elder Law Day events happening around the country each year. For lawyers and other volunteers, this is an opportunity to reach out to your communities and provide essential information that older Americans need to help make their “golden years” safe and secure.
Now you might be saying: I thought the ABA did Law Day. We do! The ABA has been celebrating Law Day since 1958 with various themes to address and celebrate the Rule of Law in the United States. Elder Law Day is based on that idea but with a focus on issues that are critical to older adults’ health and wellbeing.
The needs of the aging population, the “silver tsunami” as we know it, are many. The decisions they make to address those needs are crucial. That’s why it’s so important to help families understand something as seemingly simple as a will to more complex decisions about health care proxies and even their long-term-care rights. We must help families learn when guardianship is appropriate and when this new approach called supported decision-making is a better alternative.
The Commission on Law and Aging has been addressing these issues for years and we lead the nation in developing policy and guidance for attorneys who practice in these areas. We would like to see that expertise shared with your community.
Much like developing a local Law Day program, putting together an Elder Law Day requires planning. To help you, we’ve developed a guide and timeline for planning such an event. May 1 is Law Day, and May is also Older Americans Month, so the timeline is based on your Elder Law Day event held in May. The guide also includes a list of topics and activities for you to consider.
You are the key to the success of this program. By working with local partners, such as bar associations, courts and community organizations, you can perform a tremendous service for your community.
As you know, many seniors are preyed upon by scammers. Many of these older adults work their way through a maze of decisions with a lack of information or resources, and that leaves them feeling very vulnerable. You can provide these seniors with objective, important and necessary information to help them live and thrive.
So please honor your parents, your neighbors, and your colleagues by being part of this important event. I thank you for your participation and service to others. And they will thank you as well!