By Allan J. Gold, Attorney
As per U.S. Legal, elder law is defined as: “a specialized area of legal practice, covering estate planning, wills, trusts, arrangements for care, social security and retirement benefits, protection against elder abuse (physical, emotional and financial), and other involving older people.” (Source: https://definitions.uslegal.com/e/elder-law/) However, I find this definition to be lacking, first respecting the notion of aging and second, too restrictive over coverage. That’s why I need to enhance the description as follows.
I would start my explanation with the aging process. While I’m sure that you know what it means to age, but in the interest of clarity, I shall provide you a definition. “Old age refers to ages nearing or surpassing the life expectancy of human beings, and is thus the end of the human life cycle. Terms and euphemisms include old people (worldwide usage), seniors (American usage), senior citizens (British and American usages), older adults (in the social sciences), the elderly, and elders (in many cultures—including the cultures of aboriginal people). (Source; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Old_age) To this, I would add the distinction between junior seniors, (i.e., those just surpassing the threshold of middle age) and senior-seniors, (i.e., those, much older, closer to the end than the beginning).
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When it comes to the law, I would say that by virtue of the constitution in Canada, every citizen has rights and freedoms. And by virtue of the “Chartre des droits et libertés de la personne du Québec”, every citizen has rights. While the law applies equally to everyone, young and old, elder law is the field dealing with people entering their golden years and/or those far down the road.
Next, as to the subject areas covered, I say that it’s as large as the concerns of seniors, older adults and the elderly and the major issues perplexing them. For me, there are four main categories (corresponding to my text, “Elder Law in Canada*ELIC*”), which are:
- Medical Module. It has two main streams, (a) Medical, which in turn comprises sections on such topics as: (i). Consent (to care-treatment); (ii). Euthanasia; (iii). Physician- assisted suicide; (iv). Continuation/stoppage of life support; (v). Hospice; etc.; and (b) Mental Health, which in turn comprises sections on such topics as: (i). Declining mental function; (ii). Dementia; (iii). Legal incapacity (inaptitude); (iv). Guardianship; etc.
- Work Module, It has two main streams: (a) 50+ Worker, which in turn comprises sections on such topics as: (i). Employment; (ii). Termination/dismissal; (iii). Unemployed status; (iv). Age bias/discrimination; (v). Forced retirement; (vi). Pros and cons of retiring a worker; (vii). Ins & outs of early retirement decision; etc. and (b) 50+ Entrepreneur, which discusses the challenges and process of someone 50+ who is about to become self-employed and launch a business, this following his or her taking an early retirement. In addition, it describes in great depth, the situation of an entrepreneur, 50+, having built a successful family business or a great corporation, but who is now faced with the prospect of its sale and/or transfer to the next generation. It profiles the people involved, the forces and feelings in play, possible problems and the make-up and skill-sets of the successor.
- Pension-Retirement Module. It has two main streams: (a) Pension system in Canada, detailing such areas as (i). OAS/GIS; (ii). CPP-QPP; (iii). Private/company pensions; (iv). RRSPs; etc. and (b) Planning retirement & Estate. This is for someone addressing retirement (in a non-monetary sense) and estate planning; and contemplating pre-death documents, such as a (i). Will; (ii). Power of attorney; (iii). Living will/mandate; (iv). Trust; (v). Organ donation (consent) writing; etc.
- Life Module.(future volume) At minimum, it will have four main streams: (a) Housing; (b) Personal care; (c) Elder abuse; (d) Miscellaneous such as driving a car, etc.
So you see, for me, elder law is nuanced respecting aging and is much more expansive, having greater depth when it comes to the areas covered.
This said, I assert that we must always act in the best interest of old(-er) people, aspiring that they have a better quality of life. Of course, this means that we must keep them safe and secure …ensuring that they have the necessities of life. But this also requires everyone to be cognizant of legal rights and recourses. Indeed, legal matters! And knowledge thereof is power! This is especially true when the subject person is of a certain age. And of course, it’s important to be informed when making a decision at the best and worst times of one’s life. (And yes, that’s something to remember & think about.)
LAST WORD – Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi: “A nation’s greatness is measured by how it treats its weakest members.” (Source https://www.google.com/search?q=famous+judicial+quotes+on+elderly&client=firefox-b-1&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiEnOr-lLrbAhUSKawKHQ9wAXoQ7AkINA&biw=1024&bih=639)
* ©/TM 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018 Allan Gold, Practitioners’ Press Inc. – ALL RIGHTS RESERVED