April 22, 2021 ABA Commission on Law and Aging

Beginning a Fifth Decade with Purpose--the ABA Commission on Law and Aging

By Louraine C. Arkfeld and David M. Godfrey, JD, ABA Commission on Law and Aging, NAELA Fellow

The Commission on Law and Aging recently celebrated 40 years of work to strengthen and secure the legal rights, dignity, autonomy, quality of life, and quality of care of aging persons. The Commission was created in 1979, before lawyers started using the term "Elder Law."

The Commission is an interdisciplinary body of 15 members appointed by the ABA President, supported by a professional staff of seven, including 4 lawyers with an average of 23 years experience at the Commission. The Commission focuses on research, policy development, training, providing expert advice to lawyers and bar associations and others working on aging issues. The vast majority of the Commission’s work is funded by donations, gifts, grants and contracts.

The Commission also owes much of its success over the years to the many leaders both within and outside the legal profession who have served voluntarily and with great distinction as members. When the commission held its first meeting in 1979, key federal officials and two former secretaries of the U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare were on board. From these beginnings emerged a truly significant and extraordinary effort that above and beyond the expectations of its founders, went on to produce 40 years of steady leadership, service, and valuable tools for the profession and the public. The Commission has compiled an impressive record in continuing education, advocacy, policy development and analysis in critical areas of aging.

Today the expertise and energy of members and staff continues to push the envelope of law and aging advocacy as we embark on our fifth decade. But this is not without new challenges, particularly the challenge for the first time of developing a sustaining donor base. No matter what the issue, we at COLA strongly believe – and fight for – the right of every member of society to age with dignity and security.

The Commission website has a trove of research reports, guides, handbooks, tip sheets and other resources as well as information on how you can support the work on the Commission on Law and Aging. (www.Americanbar.org/aging)

Here’s to the next decade and beyond!


Louraine C. Arkfeld is the Chair of the Commission on Law & Aging. She has previously served as the Chair of both the Senior Lawyers Division and the Judicial Division. She also served as the Judicial Member-at-Large of the Board of Governors. She is a retired judge from Arizona where she served twenty-six years on the bench. 

David Godfrey is the Senior Attorney for the ABA Commission on Law and Aging.