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ElderLaw News

ElderLaw News is a weekly e-newsletter that brings you reports of legal developments and other trends of vital interest to seniors and their advocates. This newsletter is brought to you by The Estate Planning & Elder Law Firm, P.C., William S. Fralin, Esq., President.

Americans Stay Alert to Ageism

A South Florida senior citizen, 81 years young and healthy, was not allowed to adopt two Chihuahua puppies because of his "advanced age."

This story on the Internet is just one example of ageism–discrimination against people on the grounds of age. It is a basic denial of older people's human rights.

Robert N. Butler, M.D., a gerontologist, psychiatrist, and winner of a Pulitzer Prize, coined the term in 1968. He also founded the National Institute on Aging and led the International Longevity Center USA (ILC). A 2006 ILC report, "Ageism in America,” describes experiences of older Americans: "widespread mistreatment, ranging from stereotyping and degrading media images to physical and financial abuse, unequal treatment in the workforce, and denial of appropriate medical care and services."

With our aging population, ageism will impact a significant segment of society. By 2030, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that Americans 65 years of age and older will make up 20% of the population. Ageism can detrimentally affect older people's health, employment, and psychological wellbeing.


Ageism affects longevity. Yale School of Public Health professor Becca Levy and her colleagues found that older people with positive attitudes on aging lived 7.5 years longer than those with negative feelings. Data show that Americans are living longer. When Social Security was established in 1935, life expectancy was under 62 years while today it is 78 years.

Another critical issue affecting seniors' health is the dearth of geriatricians, physicians who specialize in treating the elderly. Today, there is about one pediatrician for every 1,300 children under 18 years of age in America. The statistic, according to the American Geriatrics Society, is one geriatrician for every 2,600 people age 75 years and older. Physicians trained in geriatrics will know the difference between symptoms of aging and those that can be treated.

"Elderspeak" can also negatively impact medical treatment. A University of Miami psychiatrist, Marc E. Agronin, M.D., used this example: Questions about medications being answered with, "Don't worry, dear. This is what the doctor ordered."


Because of the economic crisis, people are working longer. They are postponing retirement and competing against younger workers for lower-level positions. Laid-off older workers are out of work longer, studies found. David Certner, the chief legislative counsel for AARP, in a nytimes.com article, praised a recent Supreme Court decision in Meacham v. Knolls Atomic Power Laboratory that protects employees from age discrimination during layoffs. It supports the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) of 1967 that protects anyone 40 years of age or older. The law is enforced by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The Associated Press reported that only one-fourth of the EEOC age cases are settled on behalf of the complainant. In the 1970s, political activists worked to make mandatory retirement obsolete. Yet, it's not uncommon for police officers and firefighters to retire in their late 50s.


Toni Calasanti, Ph.D., professor of sociology at Virginia Tech, wrote the lead story in a recent issue of the university's research magazine. "People want to keep passing for younger since being old affects social status," she said in an interview. "Ageism oppresses the people we will become." A Pew Research Center survey found that one-third of those between the ages of 65 and 74 years said they felt 10 to 19 years younger, and one-sixth of people 75 years and older said they felt 20 years younger.

Ageism may result in feelings of low self-esteem, stress, anxiety, guilt and helplessness. Dr. Butler wrote, "When the future is removed, as in the case of old age, it builds dissatisfaction, disappointment and depression." But as Dr. Butler, noted, older adults should live lives based on hope and positive expectations.

Here are some tips for staying active:

Keep moving – Participate in exercise, yoga, and dance classes

Stay involved – Volunteer at schools and hospitals and for the arts. Tackle causes to help society.

Connect with friends and family – Host a reunion. Find a long-lost soul mate.

Learn new things – Use computers and digital cameras. Be "crafty."

Work longer – Look into shared jobs, flextime and phased retirement.

Communicate more – Write or blog about life experiences and inspirations.

Dream – Never stop setting goals and looking ahead.

MSNBC broadcasted a story of a gentleman who always dreamed of crossing the Atlantic Ocean in a raft. At age 85 years, he and three friends landed in St. Maarten after the 2,800-mile journey. "What else do you do when you get on in years?" he asked a reporter.

Keep living and dreaming.

The attorneys at The Estate Planning & Elder Law Firm assist families with their estate, financial, insurance, long-term care, veterans' benefits, and special needs planning issues.


If you are interested in having an Elder Law attorney from The Estate Planning & Elder Law Firm, P.C. speak at an event, then please call us at:

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The Estate Planning & Elder Law Firm, P.C.

The Estate Planning & Elder Law Firm, P.C. is an elder law firm. We represent older persons, disabled persons, their families, and their advocates. The practice of elder law includes estate planning, estate and trust administration, powers of attorney, advance medical directives, titling of assets and designations of beneficiaries, guardianships, conservatorships, and public entitlements such as Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security, and SSI, disability planning, income tax planning and preparation, care management, and fiduciary services. For more information about The Estate Planning & Elder Law Firm, P.C., please visit our website at http://www.chroniccareadvocacy.com.

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