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									      Controversy 6
Should Older People Be Protected
      From Bad Choices?
The Vulnerabilities of Older People

   Individuals have different competencies as
    they age
       We’re finding that some of our stereotypes about
        the vulnerabilities of older people are inaccurate

   So why should the old be protected from
    risky choices that may lead to a greater
    quality of life for them?
Interfering When People Make Bad
   Dilemma: When is it right to interfere with
    other people’s actions if those actions
    constitute a danger to themselves?
       Legally, we’re not permitted to curtail a person’s
        freedoms unless they are unable to make
        decisions for themselves
   There are differences between child abuse
    and elder abuse
       An adult is always presumed to be mentally
        competent until proven otherwise
    Elder Abuse and Neglect
   Reliable statistics are hard to obtain, but there seem to be
    several types of elder abuse:
       Physical violence
       Chronic verbal aggression
       Neglect
   Abuse appears to be prevalent in about 1.6% of people over
    the age of 65 not living in institutions
   Risk factors for elder abuse include:
       The presence of psychopathology (especially alcohol or substance use)
       Family history of violence
       Caregiving burdens
       Social isolation
       Recent occurrence of stressful life events
Perceptions of Quality of Life
   Defining “quality of life” and measuring well-being in later-life
    are serious problems for gerontology
       Life satisfaction – as person’s attitude toward past and present life
        as a whole
       Morale – a specific feeling, whether optimistic or pessimistic, about
        the future
   Researchers use many scales to try to measure subjective
       Life Satisfaction Index and The Philadelphia Geriatric Center Morale
        Scale are most common
   Old age alone isn’t related to poor morale or unhappiness
       But physical health is a strong predictor of subjective well-being
    Sexuality in Later Life
   No single pattern of personal relationships is perfect
    for all people, and human beings need intimacy and
    love in many different ways throughout the life course
       Yet, sex among the elderly has long been a topic for humor
   Sexual decline is more likely to be determined by
    marital status, general physical health, or the feelings
    of an older person about sexuality – rather than
    chronological age
   Sexual activity in late life is best explained by the
    continuity theory of aging:
       The best predictor of sexual behavior in late life is earlier
        sexual behavior
    Sexuality in Later Life (cont.)
   The difference in statistical findings on sexuality between men
    and women reflect the changing sex ratio in later life
      Women tend to outlive men by an average of 6 years, and
       each year 7 in 1,000 men remarries, while only 1 in 1,000
       women remarries
   Men typically remain fertile into their 80’s
   Women, however, experience menopause and loss of fertility
      Decreased estrogen production can also increase the risk of
   Many artists and authors have picked up on the many positive
    themes of later-life development, especially in post-menopausal
    Crime and the Elderly
   People over age 65 have lower rates than other age groups for
    serious crimes such as robbery, personal theft, assault, and
       The victimization rate for the elderly is lower than the rate for the rest of
        the population
   The biggest threats to older people come from financial
      However, defining “exploitation” is difficult; we still have
       many questions unanswered about:
            How to prove a crime was committed if the presumed “victim” doesn’t
             report financial exploitation
            Whether or not we’re justified in interfering for a person’s own good
            How we go about determining what a person’s “own good” actually is
Intervention in the Lives of the
Vulnerable Elderly
   It is possible to restrict people’s freedoms for
    their own good through legal procedures
    intended for that purpose
       Civil commitment is a legal procedure whereby
        people can be place in psychiatric hospitals
        against their will
          However, more often today, formal court proceedings
          are undertaken to declare someone mentally
          incompetent to manage their finances, etc.
    Intervention in the Lives of the
    Vulnerable Elderly (cont.)
   Appointing a guardian or a conservator is possible when
    someone is unable to manage money or make decisions
   Guardianship can take two forms:
    1.   Guardianship of the person – the guardian has the power to
         determine where the older person will live and what treatment or
         services he/she may receive
    2.   Guardianship of the estate – the guardian has power to manage
         property and take over financial affairs
        Often times, relatives are willing and able to take over as guardians
    However, some of the worst failings of the guardianship
     system come from the rights of older adults being disregarded
     in terms of financial incentives for the guardians, preferences
     given to well-connected lawyers, and guardianship rarely
     being revoked

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