Technology is often considered as a tool more common among younger generations, with older individuals less likely to have embraced the internet and smartphones that, for many of us, have become important parts of our lives.
As lawyers know, the court system and legal profession have embraced technology in a number of new ways over the past year. From Zoom hearings to probate applications filed by email, we have had to adapt to better use technology in the practice of law. Recent news articles also suggest that the pandemic appears to be increasing the use of technology among older adults. In particular, the last ten months are noted to have seen:
- Acceptance of applications typically used primarily by millennials seeking convenience by other groups;
- For many, home delivery has become a “necessity”;
- Video chat has become a “lifeline for older adults”, who may otherwise be totally isolated;
- Increased accessibility to telemedicine and virtual caregiving support; and
- Online education for individuals of all ages, whether geared to enhance career potential or otherwise.
Many of these trends have the potential to assist seniors in aging in place during the COVID-19 pandemic, which no doubt has become an increasingly attractive option in light of the tragic situation at many long-term care facilities. Increased technology use by seniors is noted to be a positive that has emerged as a result of COVID to make independent living more comfortable and safer. There are also a number of online resources available with recommendations for seniors wishing to safely age in place, including this review of possible Home Modifications available through Family Assets, a resource for senior care.
It will be interesting to see how our use of technology continues to evolve to assist individuals at all stages of life during the pandemic and beyond.
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Our readers will all be familiar of the issue of elder abuse, and the various forms that it can take. It is also well-known that elder abuse if underreported, giving rise to challenges in determining just how common it is and how incidence rates may be fluctuating within the context of our aging population.
A new study by Comparitech explores the issue of the underreporting of elder abuse and extrapolates reported incidents and studies regarding underreporting to gain an appreciation of how commonly it is actually occurring in the United States. Comparitech estimates that at least 5 million cases of financial elder abuse occur every year in the United States alone. While damages of $1.17 billion are reported, it is believed that the actual losses to seniors total $27.4 billion.
Technology also appears to be playing a role in increasing rates of elder abuse. Comparitech found that 1 in 10 seniors were victims of elder abuse and that the use of debit cards have become the most common tool in defrauding them of their funds. With phone and email scams on the rise in recent years, underreporting is anticipated to become a growing problem while incidence rates continue to increase without any way to determine exactly how many seniors are affected.
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Our blog has previously featured posts about the concept of aging in place. Survey results suggest that the vast majority (93% of respondents aged 65 or older) of Canadians wish to continue living at home for as long as possible as they age. Benefits of aging in place may include lower costs (relative to living in long-term care), increased comfort, slower advancement of memory loss, strengthening of social networks, and continued independence and self-determination.
For many, with old age comes physical limitations that may result in decreased mobility and expose seniors to an increased risk of accidents while living at home, whether they are living with or without the assistance of caregivers or other support, absent sufficient safety measures. We recently discovered a guide to making homes senior-safe, which is available online for free through the Senior Safety Reviews website.
The guide features the following:
- 34 practical tips to assist in preventing falls;
- Measures that may assist in the prevention of theft, elder abuse, burns and fires;
- Technology that can be used to promote at-home safety; and
- Preparing the home for extreme weather.
The guide reports that, notwithstanding the goal of many individuals to remain at home into old age, only 1% of homes are currently equipped to safely facilitate aging in place.
This user-friendly guide may be of assistance to older clients and supportive family members in allowing seniors to safely age in place.
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Some people would be surprised to know that there are now more Torontonians ages 65+ than children aged 15 and below. By 2041, the number of people over the age of 65 is expected to double. Nationally, seniors are projected to constitute one-quarter of the Canadian population by the year of 2036.
The City of Toronto found that a plan and an appropriate strategy were needed to be put in place, in order to ensure that the needs of the growing population of seniors are being met.
The City first addressed this question on April 12, 2011, when Council directed the Executive Director, Social Development, Finance and Administration to develop a comprehensive strategic plan for seniors in consultation with other levels of government, school boards, relevant community organizations and individuals, businesses and academia that is adequately funded, financially feasible and able to be implemented. A particularly important aspect of Council’s direction was the request that the strategy include helping seniors remain in their own homes longer.
On May 7, 2013, Council unanimously approved the Toronto Seniors Strategy: Towards an Age-Friendly City. Between 2013 and 2017, various progress reports were generated and on July 4, 2017, City Council adopted the Tenants First Phase 1 Implementation Plan. A particular area of interest in this plan was that the City Council approved the strategic integration of City programs and services for seniors and responsibility for management of the 83 seniors-designated buildings within the Toronto Community Housing Corporation portfolio under a new Seniors Housing and Services entity that is separate from Toronto Community Housing and is more directly accountable to City Council.
Most recently, a report for action was generated on April 30, 2018 indicating that the manner in which the City currently organizes its housing and services for seniors does not meet their needs and this problem will be exacerbated as the population continues to grow over the next 10-15 years.
The following recommendations were made:
- City Council to approve Version 2.0 of the Toronto Seniors Strategy and direct City Divisions and Agencies to implement the 27 high-impact recommendations contained in the report;
- City Council to direct the Executive Director, Social Development, Finance and Administration to work with the Executive Director of Financial Planning to report back on the financial impact of fully implementing the 27 high-impact recommendations once the service delivery plans have been fully developed for the medium-term initiatives.
It is encouraging to see that the City of Toronto is taking initiatives such as these to care for its aging population, moving forward. To learn more about this important endeavour check out the Toronto Seniors Strategy Version 2.0 report here.
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Is it possible for today’s seniors to return to their hippie past? For some, plans are in the works.
Youth of the 1960s were a powerful social force that introduced a greater acceptance of community or “commune” living. While the concept never went mainstream, commune-type living is a niche arrangement that takes many forms today, from housing co-operatives in the city, to back-to-the-earth rural compounds, to religious groups seeking to live with their own kind.
If there’s a “hippie” feel to all of this, it’s for good reason. Many of these communities are progressive, socialist in leaning, and seeking a higher ideal in their living. It sure sounds like the 1960s.
Which takes us to commune living for seniors. I heard about this first from a group of men who played hockey together and lived in the same neighbourhood. Recognizing that many would need to “cash out” and sell their homes as they got older, the group lamented the possible loss of their community. One answer was to establish a single housing collective that everyone could move to to maintain their social bonds.
While that idea has never gotten beyond beer talk (at least not yet), I recently learned of another friend who was actively involved in a group that had moved beyond the talking stage and were scouting potential building sites. It may not be for me, but it certainly put the idea on my radar.
The push for senior communes
The attractiveness of senior communes is that it bypasses traditional retirement homes (too institutional) or living alone arrangements (no community, too lonely). A commune brings like-minded people together who can care for each other – and bring in help as needed as group members age.
Of course, there are countless hurdles to such arrangements that range from funding, to legal status, to rules relating to who can live in the complex and what the responsibilities of living there entail.
The Huffington Post ran an article about this recently.
One of the Toronto groups mentioned in the article, Baba Yaga Place, is in the process of making their community living project a reality. It’s modelled on a Paris commune of senior women that is up and running. The Paris commune took 13 years to establish, but Baba Yaga Place is hoping their development stage is quicker. You can follow their progress through their website.
Are you ready to channel your inner-hippie as you enter your senior years? You may soon have options.
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A recent survey commissioned by HomeEquity Bank suggests that the majority of older Canadians plan on staying in their homes as they age (otherwise known as aging in place) rather than downsizing and/or moving into assisted living or retirement communities. 93% of survey respondents aged 65 or older felt that it was important that they remain at their current home throughout retirement. 69% of them advised that their primary reason for wishing to remain at home was to maintain independence as they age.
The older respondents (75 years or older) advised that it was important to them that they remain in their current home to stay close to family, friends, and/or the community (51%) and that emotional attachment and memories were also contributing factors (40%).
In order to remain living at home as long as possible into retirement, advance planning in terms of finances and logistics may be necessary. A recent article appearing in Forbes suggests that the following steps, unrelated to financial planning, may be especially useful in facilitating successful aging in place:
- Maintaining social connections to avoid social isolation;
- Identifying who will help, whether family members, friends, or public services;
- Planning for the transition as needs change over time and identifying the resources and services available in the community;
- Preparing the home to accommodate increased needs (for example, by installing grab bars and a chair in the shower);
- Reviewing and updating the plan to age in place as may be necessary (due to a change in health, available support, or financial constraints).
Notwithstanding one’s plans to continue living at the family home, increasing longevity, a lack of liquidity, unrealistic expectations in terms of income sources after retirement, and the high cost (or local inaccessibility) of caregiving services may contribute to a decision to sell the home and relocate earlier than intended.
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The Supreme Court of Canada recently refused leave to appeal a decision of the Quebec Court of Appeal that raises the issue of whether old age should be considered as a factor during sentencing.
The appellant had been convicted of fraud, conspiracy to commit fraud, and laundering the proceeds of crime at the direction of or in association with a criminal organization. A prior appeal regarding the conviction itself had been dismissed by the Quebec Court of Appeal.
The Lower Court recognized the role of the appellant as a directing mind of a criminal organization and the losses suffered by the government as a result of his fraudulent acts. The Court had stated that age, even if it could be taken into account, was “only one factor among many”, which “cannot have a determinative impact because of the great number of aggravating factors”.
The appellant subsequently sought leave to appeal his four-year prison sentence. The appellant asserted that, at 81 years of age and in a poor state of health, his sentence ought to be replaced with a conditional sentence to be served in the community or otherwise limited in duration to allow him the prospect of life after prison.
The Quebec Court of Appeal summarized the law as it relates to the consideration of age during sentencing as follows (at paras 38, 39, 42, 43):
The advanced age of an accused must be taken into account when determining a sentence, as Chief Justice Lamer indicated in R. v. M. (C.A.)…
The age factor must, however, be considered in light of the health of the offender as it relates to his life expectancy. Consequently, the mere fact that an accused is elderly is not, in and of itself, a mitigating factor in determining a prison sentence, unless the evidence reveals that he has little chance of serving the sentence before passing away. This is increasingly true with the general aging of the Canadian population and the raised probability of longer life expectancies.
As a result, if at the time a sentence is imposed, the offender’s state of health does not suggest that he is unlikely to complete the sentence before his demise, the judge then has the necessary discretion to impose an appropriate sentence in light of all the usual factors and criteria…
It is possible that an offender’s state of health deteriorates following sentencing. This possibility increases with the age of the offender. The sentencing judge may not, however, speculate on this subject and must determine the sentence in accordance with the evidence before him when it is rendered…
The Court nevertheless considered the prison sentence to be appropriate, notwithstanding the expectation of the appellant that he may not survive it. The Supreme Court agreed with the reasons of the Quebec Court of Appeal.
With Canada’s aging population, cases like this, in which an individual convicted of a crime is elderly and/or in a poor state of health, can be expected to increase in frequency. The Supreme Court has confirmed that (for the time being at least), while age is a factor to be considered during sentencing, it is merely one to be assessed among others, rather than being determinative of the issue.
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According to the Alzheimer Society of Canada, 25,000 Canadians are diagnosed with dementia each year, and more than 500,000 are currently living with the disease. While dementia can occur at a relatively young age, the risks increase as we grow older. According to the federal government’s Chief Public Health Officer, the average age of the onset of dementia symptoms is 70 years for men and 74 for women.
One of the risks for those with dementia is losing the ability to make sound financial decisions, or, even worse, falling victim to scams in which they willingly transfer money to others without a full understanding of what they are doing. In the United States, many financial advisors have put a safeguard in place to protect their senior clients who might develop the disease – it’s called an emergency contact authorization form.
How the Form Works
With an emergency contact authorization form, the client identifies someone they trust that their financial advisor can contact if the advisor believes the client is having trouble managing their finances or is being taken advantage of financially. You can view a sample form here: [http://www.virginialynn.net/files/72367/2016%20Emergency%20Contact%20Authorization%20Form.pdf]
The form only authorizes the financial advisor to discuss the situation with the designated individual. It does not give that individual authority to manage the client’s financial affairs, as a power of attorney would. The designated individual may be the same person named in the power of attorney, but it doesn’t have to be.
Because dementia is progressive, moving from mild, to moderate, to severe cognitive decline over time, financial advisors who advise seniors are in a unique position to see these changes occur between portfolio review sessions – or to spot any unusual financial requests or transactions that seem out of character for the individual. The emergency contact authorization form gives the financial advisor the ability to take action, and discuss the situation with someone the client has indicated they trust.
It’s a protection that we hope will gain greater prominence in Canada soon. You can learn more about the use of these forms in the U.S. here: http://www.themckenziefirm.com/financial-firms-roll-out-form-aimed-at-stopping-financial-elder-abuse/
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