The PDF in which this article appears can be found in Bifocal Vol. 44; Issue 3.
David: Here in my last Director Column, I am going to make a few observations about the status of law and aging, as I hand this off to Erica Costello to outline her plans for the Commission.
- We will be more successful if we invite other advocates to the table, to consider all points of view and look for common ground. There is a deep overlap in issues and concerns among advocates working on disability rights, mental health, mental illness, and aging, we need to spend more time listening to one another and focusing on the common ground and supporting one another on the issues that are unique to each area of advocacy. Silo walls are for farms.
- We need to listen to our critics and learn from them, even if we don’t agree with them. There is a kernel of wisdom to be found by listening.
- Guardianship or Conservatorship is a blunt instrument for responding to elder abuse or exploitation. To use politically incorrect words, we are punishing the victim instead of the perpetrator, when we use guardianship or conservatorship as an intervention in adult abuse cases.
- When working on law reform, all parties who are impacted need to be at the table. Well drafted statutory changes are often derailed at the last minute because interest groups who were not involved in the process, say “we haven’t had time to consider this.” Include everyone in the process.
- Many attorneys and other advocates experience secondary trauma when helping clients who have experienced abuse, and loss. We need to better support the mental health of service providers.
- Updating laws is complicated. Many issues require guidance for change at the state and local level. Congress can’t change state laws, but it can fund technical assistance and training that empowers states to make changes that are needed.
- Millennials are largest generation in the United States, and 17 years after the baby boomers, millennials will have an even larger demographic impact. The Boomers have not crushed the system, and a large percentage of adults living longer is a fact of the future.
I wish Erica well as Director of the Commission on Law and Aging. She has a great team with Beth Russo, Trisha Bullock, and Sonia Arce. I am encouraging her to make changes, to draw on our 45-year legacy, and lead boldly into a changing future. We have strong leadership with our Commissioners, Advisors and Liaisons. The ABA Center for Public Interest Law supports our mission and is fighting for our future. ABA members are the best lawyers and legal minds in the country, and they are pulling for our success.
All of you, please take care of yourself. I close nearly all of my emails with the phrase “Take Care,” and I mean it. Take care of yourself, if don’t you won’t be here to take care of others. Lawyers are caregivers. We care about our clients, and often put our clients ahead of taking care of ourselves. Take care of yourself along the way. And take care of the Commission on Law and Aging by financially supporting our work, so we can be here for you.