Tuesday, May 26, 2015
The Employee Benefits Research Institute (EBRI) published a note in April, 2015 that looked at the question of how much money people have at the end of their lives. A Look At the End-of-Life Financial Situation in America. Here is what the study examined
This report takes a comprehensive look at the financial situation of older Americans at the end of their lives. In particular, it documents the percentage of households with a member who recently died with very few assets (total assets as well as non-housing assets). It also documents income, debt, home-ownership rates, net home equity and the share of their income coming from Social Security benefits for those households.
This report is useful as part of the work by EBRI in looking at retirement security and whether people will have sufficient funds to last the rest of their lives. Here are some bullets from the conclusion:
- For those who died at ages 85 or above, 20.6 percent had no non-housing assets and 12.2 percent had no assets left.
- Among singles who died at or above age 85, 24.6 percent had no non-housing assets left and 16.7 percent had no assets left.
- Those who died at earlier ages were generally worse off financially: 29.8 percent of households that lost a member between ages 50 and 64 had no assets left.
- People who died earlier also had significantly lower household income than households with all surviving members.
- Among singles who died at ages 85 or above, 9.1 percent had outstanding debt (other than mortgage debt) and the average debt amount was $6,368.
- The average net equity left in their primary residence for those who died at ages 85 or above was $141,147 and $83,471 for couple and single households, respectively.
Friday, April 24, 2015
Are you an inventor? Ever have a good idea for an invention? There is a renaissance of sorts in American ingenuity with an increasing number of older Americans becoming inventors. The NY Times ran a story about older inventors on April 17, 2015. More Older Adults Are Becoming Inventors notes this renaissance
Whether as volunteers or for profit, older inventors ... are riding a rising tide of American innovation. They are teaming up, joining inventors clubs and getting their products into the marketplace. And older inventors bring valuable skills to their work, many experts say, like worldly wisdom and problem-solving abilities that can give them an advantage over younger inventors.
According to the article, the Baby Boomers are at least part of the catalysts for this surge of older inventors, as the boomers look for products to assist them as they get older. According to one expert quoted in the article, older inventors may have an edge over younger ones, since "[a]n aging brain can see patterns better.” Before you get out the proverbial drawing board, the article notes that inventions don't necessarily lead to wealth with less than 5% of inventions making money, not to mention the prototype and startup costs
Wednesday, April 22, 2015
Stetson College of Law and the Center for Excellence in Elder Law at Stetson Law (full disclosure, I'm hosting this webinar) is offering the annual Fundamentals webinar on Friday April 24, 2015 from 1-5 p.m.. This half-day webinar features presentations by Stu Zimring, Mary Alice Jackson and Robert Fleming. More information, the schedule and registration information are available here.
Tuesday, March 17, 2015
Today is St. Patrick's Day, celebrated with greater fervor in many U.S. communities than it is in Ireland. Indeed, as I learned during my 2010 sabbatical in Northern Ireland, while Belfast is home to a variety of dramatic "historical" parades and holidays, events on St. Patrick's Day are low key and mostly for children.
In the March 16 issue of The New Yorker magazine, writer (and Yale-educated lawyer) Patrick Radden Keefe digs into the history of Northern Ireland, looking at the late stages of the Troubles. He examines possible roles played by Gerry Adams as an acknowledged leader of political party Sinn Fein versus his long-denied authority for certain violent actions of the IRA.
Keefe provides a comprehensive analysis of the events before and after the Good Friday Agreement of 1998, offering details that are devastating if true about how violence was often at its most problematic when perpetrated within the ranks of extreme republican and loyalist factions. Central to the history is the lingering question of who was responsible for the December 1972 abduction and execution of Jean McConville, the widowed mother of 10 children, suspected of informing against the IRA.
In the article, Gerry Adams comes across as determined to be both charismatic and enigmatic, as hero and anti-hero, as deeply devoted to a "United Ireland," while also oddly enamored with trivial self-promotion. I came away from the article thinking it was a good reminder of how dangerous it can be -- in any country -- to believe absolutely in any single leader.
The article also presents ethical questions associated with efforts to document the Troubles through oral histories recorded under the auspices of Boston College:
Friday, February 27, 2015
Check out Volume 48, Issue 1 of the Indiana Law Review which contains articles from the 2013 Program on Law & State Government Fellowship Symposium: State Governments Face the Realities of Aging Populations. Three articles are included from the symposium, all of which are available on-line. The articles include Introduction: Governing Choices in the Face of a Generational Storm, Aging Populations and Physician Aid in Dying: The Evolution of State Government Policy, and What the Future of Aging Means to All of Us: An Era of Possibilities.
Friday, February 6, 2015
I recently watched the movie, The Judge, starring Robert Downey, Jr. and Robert Duvall, among others. The premise of the movie is interesting and there's even a good thread about ethics (especially Rule 1.1) running through the movie. What caught my eye toward the end of the movie is (spoiler alert) the use of compassionate release. Although we may cover this in our classes, I don't know that I've seen that crop up in movies. So, I'm thinking of adding this movie to my list for my elder law class. Any movies you think should be on the list?
Wednesday, January 14, 2015
Directly from the White House:
The first White House Conference on Aging (WHCoA) was held in 1961, with subsequent conferences in 1971, 1981, 1995, and 2005. These conferences have been viewed as catalysts for development of aging policy over the past 50 years. The conferences generated ideas and momentum prompting the establishment of and/or key improvements in many of the programs that represent America’s commitment to older Americans including: Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, and the Older Americans Act.
The 2015 White House Conference on Aging
2015 marks the 50th anniversary of Medicare, Medicaid, and the Older Americans Act, as well as the 80th anniversary of Social Security. The 2015 White House Conference on Aging is an opportunity to recognize the importance of these key programs as well as to look ahead to the issues that will help shape the landscape for older Americans for the next decade.
In the past, conference processes were determined by statute with the form and structure directed by Congress through legislation authorizing the Older Americans Act. To date, Congress has not reauthorized the Older Americans Act, and the pending bill does not include a statutory requirement or framework for the 2015 conference.
However, the White House is committed to hosting a White House Conference on Aging in 2015 and intends to seek broad public engagement and work closely with stakeholders in developing the conference. We also plan to use web tools and social media to encourage as many older Americans as possible to participate. We are engaging with stakeholders and members of the public about the issues and ideas most important to older individuals, their caregivers, and families. We also encourage people to submit their ideas directly through the Get Involved section on this website.
Wednesday, December 3, 2014
Canada: New online program aims to help reduce financial abuse of seniors through education and awareness
Launch of Financial Abuse of Older Adults: Recognize, Review and Respond program marks end of Financial Literacy Month
In honour of November being Financial Literacy Month, Credit Union Central of Canada (CUCC) has partnered with Credit Union Central of Manitoba (CUCM) and Prevent Elder Abuse Manitoba (PEAM) – in collaboration with the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada – to launch a new online course: Financial Abuse of Older Adults: Recognize, Review and Respond. The purpose of this course is to help educate credit union staff about financial elder abuse and provide them with key information, including: how to identify incidences of elder abuse; how to mitigate the risks; community resources available; as well as the legal and ethical responsibilities of both the financial institution and the senior involved. Upon completion of the course, credit union employees will have the opportunity to share their knowledge with members of the community – especially with Canadian seniors –, to help them understand more about elder abuse and how to prevent it happening to them. Minister of State (Seniors), the Honourable Alice Wong; Minister of Healthy Living and Seniors (Manitoba), the Honourable Deanne Crothers; Lawrence Toet, MP (Elmwood-Transcona); Jane Rooney, Financial Literacy Leader; Martha Durdin, President and CEO of Credit Union Central of Canada, and Ted Richert, Vice President, Credit Union Central of Manitoba will make remarks. The program was written and developed by Tamlo International Inc. and will be distributed exclusively by CUSOURCE Credit Union Knowledge Network, a wholly owned subsidiary of Credit Union Central of Canada that provides learning and development solutions to the Canadian credit union system.
Source: Canada News Wire
Sunday, November 2, 2014
Start your week with a laugh, or at least a smile.
One of the many blogs I read, GeriPal, ran an excellent parody for Halloween that had me howling....with laughter at the author's cleverness. Addressing Unmet Palliative and Geriatric Needs of Zombies is a hysterical must-read. The title gives you an excellent preview. And don't ignore the links in the article to the other sources, especially the one regarding the speed with which the Grim Reaper walks (at least the section on strengths and limitations).
Wednesday, October 1, 2014
A few days ago I blogged about an article in The Atlantic explaining one person's thinking of 75 being his optimal "old age". In that same issue of The Atlantic is another article--about longevity and 100 year olds--what it will mean for society as more of us reach that age. What Happens When We All Live to 100? was published on September 17, 2014.
The article starts with a history of sorts of life expectancies from human origins and notes that
Viewed globally, the lengthening of life spans seems independent of any single, specific event. It didn’t accelerate much as antibiotics and vaccines became common. Nor did it retreat much during wars or disease outbreaks. A graph of global life expectancy over time looks like an escalator rising smoothly. The trend holds, in most years, in individual nations rich and poor; the whole world is riding the escalator.
Projections of ever-longer life spans assume no incredible medical discoveries—rather, that the escalator ride simply continues. If anti-aging drugs or genetic therapies are found, the climb could accelerate. Centenarians may become the norm, rather than rarities who generate a headline in the local newspaper.
The article then moves to a discussion of those institutions intentionally working on increasing life spans, the Buck Institute, the U of Michigan, the U of Texas, UC-San Francisco, and the Mayo Clinic for example. Long-term readers of this blog may also remember a post about CALICO (Google's "spin-off called the California Life Company (known as Calico) to specialize in longevity research."). The article has a fascinating section about the research being done, including some interesting consideration of other life forms that excel in longevity (worm genes, anyone?).
I particular enjoyed reading the quote of one of the leaders in the field in describing the nascent nature of the research. "'[M]edically, we do not know what ‘age’ is. The sole means to determine age is by asking for date of birth. That’s what a basic level this research still is at.'” There seems to be some debate amongst the experts about whether life expectancy will continue to rise at the steady escalator-smooth rate as in years past. The article also mentions some of the theories advanced over time on increasingly longevity: vitamins, low calorie diets, education, exercise, etc.
One section of the article bears significant possibilities for class discussion, the political implications of an older society.
Society is dominated by the old—old political leaders, old judges. With each passing year, as longevity increases, the intergenerational imbalance worsens. The old demand benefits for which the young must pay, while people in their 20s become disenchanted, feeling that the deck is stacked against them. National debt increases at an alarming rate. Innovation and fresh thinking disappear as energies are devoted to defending current pie-slicing arrangements.
The author reveals this is a description of what is actually occurring in Japan. Consider as the author does, what increased longevity may also do to the judicial branch--especially the Supreme Court with lifetime appointments.
This article may be viewed as a bit of a wake-up alarm, although I suspect many of the folks in the US will just hit the snooze button
People’s retirement savings simply must increase, though this means financial self-discipline, which Americans are not known for. Beyond that, most individuals will likely need to take a new view of what retirement should be: not a toggle switch—no work at all, after years of full-time labor—but a continuum on which a person gradually downshifts to half-time, then to working now and then. Let’s call it the “retirement track” rather than retirement: a phase of continuing to earn and save as full-time work winds down.
Widespread adoption of a retirement track would necessitate changes in public policy and in employers’ attitudes. Banks don’t think in terms of smallish loans to help a person in the second half of life start a home-based business, but such lending might be vital to a graying population. Many employers are required to continue offering health insurance to those who stay on the job past 65, even though they are eligible for Medicare. Employers’ premiums for these workers are much higher than for young workers, which means employers may have a logical reason to want anyone past 65 off the payroll. Ending this requirement would make seniors more attractive to employers.
Back to the reasons for increasing longevity. One in the list above, education, seems to have a solid correlation and maybe not as obvious as other reasons that come to mind (vaccines, antibiotics, improved health care, public services, etc.). The author considers the role of education in longevity and examining budget cuts by states, suggests
Many of the social developments that improve longevity—better sanitation, less pollution, improved emergency rooms—are provided to all on an egalitarian basis. But today’s public high schools are dreadful in many inner-city areas, and broadly across states ... Legislatures are cutting support for public universities, while the cost of higher education rises faster than inflation. These issues are discussed in terms of fairness; perhaps health should be added as a concern in the debate. If education is the trump card of longevity, the top quintile may pull away from the rest
The last section of the article hypothesizes on the impact of an aging society if the escalator continues its ascent, achieving perhaps a "grey utopia" of sorts. The article is well worth reading, but it makes me think about how society values, or devalues, aging. Is getting old a challenge or disease to be conquered? For example, the author writes, "[i]f the passage of time itself turns out to be the challenge, interdisciplinary study of aging might overtake the disease-by-disease approach. As recently as a generation ago, it would have seemed totally crazy to suppose that aging could be “cured.” Now curing aging seems, well, only somewhat crazy." Read this article and have your students read it, too.
Tuesday, September 23, 2014
Tuesday, September 9, 2014
One of the things (among the many things) I like to post about is the concept of age-friendly communities that allow a person to age in place. Governing ran an article last month, showcasing a cool project in Oregon that provides intergenerational housing. Young and Old Find Common Ground in Oregon Housing Community explains about Bridge Meadows where elders and foster children reside in the same housing complex, where the units are provided for free to the foster parents. "Bridge Meadows, a 36-unit apartment complex in [Portland] ... mixes incomes, generations and skill sets in a way that enlivens and enriches the lives of young and old alike." Twenty-seven of the units are for lower-income elders with the rest for those who will be foster parents (or even legal guardians) for at least 3 children within 5 years. Not only do the elders get a break on the housing costs they get to be involved!
[E]lders volunteer their time to work with the kids in the complex. For at least 100 hours per quarter, they tutor, cook, babysit, participate in outdoor activities and so forth. The complex also offers a computer room, library, public courtyard and community garden to help foster connections.
As far as the kids, the program has had a pretty significant impact. Of the "29 children ... 24 were formerly in foster care. Of those 24, just over half are either adopted or in legal guardianship and the rest are on their way to adoption or legal guardianship. In other words, they're all now part of functional families, in permanency or on their way."
The head of Bridge Meadows is pretty enthused about this model's ability to be duplicated, noting that it serves as a solution for 2 serious problems our society is facing, (1) "how to civically attend to our rapidly aging population and" (2) "how to place all the troubled kids peppering children and family services systems in the country."
The author has some concerns about effective replication but still considers this program jan important addition to the spectrum of strategies. It is a nifty idea! More information about the project, as well as photos, are available on their website.
Wednesday, August 27, 2014
A couple who met as teenagers 10 years before the start of World War Two have celebrated 80 years of marriage. Maurice and Helen Kaye, from Bournemouth, met in 1929 when they were 17 and 16 respectively. They courted for four years because Mrs Kaye's mother wanted her older sister to be married first. The couple, who are now 102 and 101, said the secret to a happy marriage was being tolerant of each other and being willing to "forgive and forget". The pair, one of Britain's longest-married couples, plan to celebrate their oak wedding anniversary with children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
Tuesday, August 19, 2014
The Centers for Disease Control says more than 1 million people in the U.S. are living with HIV, and almost 1 in 6 don't know they are infected. This could affect Suncoast seniors who may be unaware of the dangers. There are certain things we are hesitant to discuss with children, and frequently those same topics are avoided with seniors. But whether we address it or not, older people are not only sexually active; according to the American Academy of HIV Medicine, by 2015, half the U.S. HIV population will be age fifty or older. “But they think they're not at risk. In their day, condoms were only for birth control. And so today, they don't have to worry about birth control and they don't know about HIV and all the other STD's that they could have to worry about.” Seniors with HIV that don't realize it are in a very dangerous position. “HIV accelerates and predisposes you to a number of diseases which causes death.
Thursday, August 14, 2014
The journal Health Affairs is seeking articles on older adults, and specifically regarding the care and management of multiple chronic conditions among this population. We are interested in work that spans the full range of care settings, including primary care and specialty practices, hospitals, nursing homes and other long-term care settings. We are grateful to The John A. Hartford Foundation for providing support for our ongoing coverage of these topics. There is no deadline for submissions; papers on these topics will be considered on an ongoing basis and considered for publication through 2015. For more information, contact Health Affairs executive editor, Don Metz: email@example.com.
Monday, August 11, 2014
A New York teenager whose grandfather suffers from Alzheimer's disease won a $50,000 science prize for developing wearable sensors that send mobile alerts when a dementia patient begins to wander away from bed, officials said on Wednesday. Kenneth Shinozuka, 15, who took home the Scientific American Science in Action Award, said his invention was inspired by his grandfather's symptoms, which frequently caused him to wander from bed in the middle of the night and hurt himself. "I will never forget how deeply moved my entire family was when they first witnessed my sensor detecting Grandfather's wandering," Shinozuka said in a statement. "At that moment, I was struck by the power of technology to change lives." His invention uses coin-sized wireless sensors that are worn on the feet of a potential wanderer. The sensors detect pressure caused when the person stands up, triggering an audible alert on a caregiver's smartphone using an app.
The award honors a project that aims to make a practical difference by addressing an environmental, health or resources challenge, said Scientific American Editor in Chief Mariette DiChristina.
Read more at Reuters.
Sunday, August 10, 2014
By 2050, a quarter of China’s population is expected to be age 65 or older. Although the government has recently loosened its restrictive population policy to allow most couples to have two children, so far it doesn’t look likely that any forthcoming baby boom will save China from its rapidly aging population. China’s current elderly, especially those living in rural areas, frequently endure chronic medical conditions without treatment, according to a new study in the journal International Health. Dai Baozhen of Jiangsu University’s Department of Health Policy & Management analyzed the results of China’s semi-regular “health and nutrition survey” for 2009, looking in particular at the responses from rural households in nine provinces.
Among his findings: China’s elderly are likely to be less educated than younger cohorts and often poorer. Nearly 70 percent of the rural elderly in the survey had an annual income of less than 5,000 renminbi ($810). Many also said their children had left home to work in cities, and while they might send money back, they couldn’t provide steady emotional support or help in obtaining and monitoring health care. Fifty-eight percent of the elderly respondents were illiterate, another barrier in obtaining health services.
It was not uncommon for China’s rural elderly to suffer chronic conditions, according to the study, including hypertension (18 percent), asthma (6 percent), and diabetes (3 percent). And those figures represent diagnosed conditions—the worrying possibility exists that many elderly suffer in the absence of any diagnosis. Fully a quarter of elderly were diagnosed with hypertension, and a third of those diagnosed with diabetes received no treatment.
Isolation and depression are also significant risks for rural elderly. China’s overall suicide rate has dropped sharply over the past two decades, especially among rural women under age 35. But among China’s elderly, it remains distressingly high. According to a recent study by researchers at the University of Hong Kong, cited by the Economist, the suicide rate for men in the Chinese countryside aged 70 to 74 is 41.7 per 100,000 (more than four times higher than the national average of 9.8 per 100,000).
Source/read more: Bloomberg
Thursday, July 24, 2014
The CarTalk Guys on National Public Radio have a crazy tradition of breaking their one hour radio program into "three halves" (okay, they have a lot of crazy traditions -- I'm focusing on just one). In that tradition, I'd been thinking about how the practice of "elder law" might also have three halves, but then I realized that perhaps it really has five halves. See what you think.
- In the United States, private practitioners who call themselves "Elder Law Attorneys" usually focus on helping individuals or families plan for legal issues that tend to occur between retirement and death. Many of the longer-serving attorneys with expertise in this area started to specialize after confronting the needs of their own parents or aging family members. They learned -- sometimes the hard way -- about the need for special knowledge of Medicare, Medicaid, health insurance and the significance of frailty or incapacity for aging adults. They trained the next generations of Elder Law Attorneys, thereby reducing the need to learn exclusively from mistakes.
- Closely aligned with the private bar are Elder Law Attorneys who work for legal service organizations or other nonprofit law firms. They have critical skills and knowledge of health-related benefits under federal and state programs. They also have sophisticaed information about the availability of income-related benefits under Social Security. They often serve the most needy of elders. Their commitment to obtain solutions not just for one client, but often for a whole class of older clients, gives them a vital role to play.
- At the state and federal levels, core decisions are made about how to interpret laws affecting older adults. Key decisions are made by attorneys who are hired by a government agency. Their decisions impact real people -- and they keep a close eye on the financial consequences of permitting access to benefits, even if is often elected officials making the decisions about funding priorities. I would also put prosecutors in this same public servant "Elder Law" category, especially prosecutors who have taken on the challenge of responding to elder abuse.
- A whole host of companies, both for-profit and nonprofit, are in the business of providing care to older adults, including hospitals, rehabilitation centers, nursing homes, assisted living facilities, group homes, home-care agencies and so on -- and they too have attorneys with deep expertise in the provider-side of "Elder Law," including knowledge of contracts, insurance and public benefit programs that pay for such services.
- Last, but definitely not least, attorneys are involved at policy levels, looking not only to the present statutes and regulations affecting older adults, but to the future of what should be the legal framework for protection of rights, or imposition of obligations, on older adults and their families. My understanding and appreciation of this sector has increased greatly over the last few years, particularly as I have come to know human rights experts who specialize in the rights of older persons.
Of course, lawyers are not the only persons who work in "Elder Law" fields and it truly takes a village -- including paralegals, social workers, case workers, health care professionals, and law clerks -- to find ways to use the law effectively and wisely. Ironically, at times it can seem as if the different halves of "elder law" specialists are working in opposition to each other, rather than together.
My reason for trying to identify these "Five Halves" of Elder Law is that, as with most of us who teach courses on elder law or aging, I have come to realize I have former students working in all of these divisions, who began their appreciation for the legal needs of older adults while still in law school. Organizing these "halves" may also help in organizing course materials.
I strongly suspect I'm could be missing one or more sectors of those with special expertise in Elder Law. What am I forgetting?
Thursday, July 17, 2014
Evolution of Human Rights for Older Persons: Preparation for UN Open-Ended Working Group on Ageing, July 30-Aug.1
On July 30-August 1, the United Nation's Fifth Working Session of the Open-ended Working Group on Ageing will be held in New York City. Established by the U.N. General Assembly in 2010, the working group's task is to "consider the existing international framework of the human rights of older persons and identify possible gaps and how best to address them, including by considering, as appropriate, the feasibility of further instruments and measures."
One potential result of this process is to frame and seek approval for a Convention (Treaty) on the Rights of Older Persons, a process which was used successfully, for example, with the U.N.'s Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).
The question of a Convention on rights of older persons was a hot topic during the 2014 International Elder Law and Policy Conference hosted by John Marshall Law School in Chicago. A number of participants and observers described key moments leading to the present status on international recognition of the rights of older people. Several commented on the prospects for eventual passage of a Convention. Listening to multiple perspective was an educational experience for those not yet steeped in the world of international law and ageing policy and I'll do my best here to provide a concise overview from my notes at the Conference.
Professor Israel ("Issy") Doron from the University of Haifa, a keynote speaker with long experience specifically focused on international human rights for older persons, described the journey that began in the mid-1970s. The first steps led to a first World Assembly on Ageing in 1982. Known as the Vienna Assembly, the body issued a report with 62 recommendations for action (VIPAA 1982), a report that was unanimously approved by the 124 (then) member states in the United Nations. Optimism was in the air. Twenty years later, and with several more intervening gatherings to discuss or focus on international ageing rights, there was a Second World Assembly on Ageing in Madrid and a corresponding report (MIPAA 2002).
Professor Doron rexcognized that this extended timeline can be frustrating for some human rights advocates. Nonetheless, he explained that these steps were important parts of the journey, moving from concern, to concept, to "soft soft law," to "soft law." A Convention or treaty would be "hard law," and thus perhaps also a hard sell, at least for some nations, including the United States. The U.S. has a history of resistence to becoming bound by international laws affecting what it views as "domestic" concerns, even if the U.S. often participates in international drafting.
There are lessons to be learned about the journeys taken by advocates for other human rights instruments. Professor Gerard Quinn from National University of Ireland Galway drew upon the experience of framing the Convention on disability rights, to demonstrate the need to build alliances and to establish a clear reason for an instrument applied to a specific group, such as older persons. National laws can provide models and their existence may help to build support; for example, U.S. law on disability rights paved the way for a key section of the CRPD that recognizes the rights of disabled persons to reasonable accommodations.
Professor Quinn noted a concern that "thematic" treaties may be seen, wrongly, as standing in isolation, rather than as a component of the human rights structure as a whole. Thus, it may be important to show how specific international law is necessary to tackle the problem of "invisibility" of affected individuals. Advocates for a Convention on ageing should also be realistic about the potential for a dichotomy in goals, as where some may emphasize promotion of "autonomy" of individuals while others focus on "protection," a tension that was present during framing of the CRPD.
One of the historical details for the CRPD, that I had failed to appreciate until hearing Professor Quinn, was what he described as "situational support" coming from potentially surprising sources. He described important support for the CRPD provided by Ireland's Mary Robinson and Mexico's Vicente Fox, with the latter making disability rights a major feature of his campaign for president of Mexico. Who will emerge as key supporters for rights of older persons?
Another important perspective on a Convention on Rights for Older People came from Ervin Nina, Counselor at the Permanent Mission of Albania to the UN, where one of his roles was as Vice Chair of the Open-ended Working Group on Ageing from 2011-2014. He explained the history of U.N. Resolution 67/139 ("Towards a Comprehensive and Integral International Legal Instrument to Promote and Protect the Rights and Dignity of Older Persons") adopted by the UN General Assembly in December 2012. Despite "passage" of this resolution that expressly mandates renewed consideration of an international legal instrument, 118 member states abstained from the vote. Thus the low number of states actually voting in favor of the resolution signaled low support for movement forward on a Convention on the Rights of Older Persons.
The final keynote speaker was Eilionoir Flynn, Deputy Director of the Centre for Disability Law and Policy and Senior Lecturer at the School of Law at National University of Ireland Galway. The very articulate Dr. Flynn addressed the challenge of moving forward, including using the upcoming 5th session of the Open-ended Working Group on Ageing as an opportunity to regain and drive momentum. She urged that civil society organizations, who have seats at the table in New York, need to work together to identify goals and reach consensus, and thus to build working alliances for drafting and passage.
During the Chicago conference, several speakers noted that one potential ally -- or stumbling block -- to adoption of a formal Convention on the Rights of Older Persons may exist in the person of the United Nation's newly appointed "Independent Expert on Older Persons' Rights," Rosa Kornfeld-Matte from Chile. On the one hand, Ms. Kornfeld-Matte, appointed by the U.N. Human Rights Council on May 8, and someone with deep experience in ageing issues, has the potential to be a catalyst for true change, including adoption of "hard" international law. However, there is also the potential for international momentum to wane while waiting for the "expert's" investigation and recommendations.
Where to go from here? One of the unique features of the Chicago conference was the decision of the host, John Marshall Law School, to open a deliberative process of its own. Beginning in the early spring of 2014, many of the participants in the conference met with faculty and staff at the law school via email, video conference and telephone, to create a working template of a "Chicago Declaration on the Rights of Older Persons." During the two- day meeting in July, drafting sessions were held in parallel to the speaker presentations, organized into five subject matter groups that examined each element of the working template. The advantage of this approach was to give not just a few U.S. professors a hands-on opportunity to participate, but to obtain input and review from a wide range of faculty, lawyers, social workers, public officials, advocates and interested organizations from more than 15 countries. At the close of the conference on July 11 we learned that the finalized "Chicago Declaration" (by then in its 10th iteration) will be presented on August 1 at the 5th Session of the Open-ended Working Group on Ageing in New York. Check the John Marshall Law School website for updates on the final version.
From my perspective as a comparative "newbie" to international human rights drafting, the Chicago Declaration was an impressive and comprehensive undertaking. It was also a lesson in building consensus and making strategic choices, such as whether to emphasize rights of autonomy or balance that focus with concern about protection for older persons. As one speaker commented, it was an excellent example of engagement, drawing upon academic research skills and international scholarship to tackle real issues in the real world.
Monday, July 14, 2014
It's been nearly 3 1/2 decades since China's government started limiting most urban families to one child. The family planning policy successfully slowed the nation's population growth, but it has had some unintended consequences. One is that some parents lose their only children to illness or accidents and end up with no one to care for them in their old age. Now, these parents have gotten together to demand their rights. A group of parents meets at a Beijing restaurant to talk and console each other. Many of them say they have a hard time relating to people who haven't experienced the heartbreak they have. They ask to be identified by their online names, because they don't want to get in trouble for criticizing government policy. One of the diners identifies herself as Xiaonan's mom. Xiaonan died of illness eight years ago, when he was 25 years old. She says his death made her feel like a failure and her life lost its meaning. More On China's One-Child Policy A man and child walk in Beijing's Tiananmen Square. China's government recently announced an easing of the country's one-child policy. While the move appears to be broadly supported, many urban Chinese parents say it would be hard to afford a second child. Feng Jianmei and her husband could not pay $6,000 in fines for violating China's one-child policy. In June, when she was seven months pregnant, local officials abducted her and forced her to have an abortion, her family says. The case has provoked widespread outrage. "I gave everything to him, so when he left, he took everything I had," she says. "Now I'm just surviving. After he left, I started drinking. If I didn't, I wouldn't be able to sleep at all." Population experts estimate that over 1 million Chinese families have lost their only children. They say that number could exceed 10 million by midcentury.
Read more at NPR News.