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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

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controversy 6

Controversy 6

Should Older People Be Protected

From Bad Choices?

the vulnerabilities of older people
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 choices
Interfering When People Make Bad Choices
  • 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
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
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 well-being
    • 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
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
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 osteoporosis
  • Many artists and authors have picked up on the many positive themes of later-life development, especially in post-menopausal women
crime and the elderly
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 rape
    • 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 exploitation
    • 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
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
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:
    • 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
    • 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