According to the U.S. Census, over 17% of Alabamans are 65 or over. Some counties like Coosa, Cherokee, and Choctaw have 23%. By 2040, some say that figure may reach 36%. This means that more and more adults will be looking into the benefits and programs open to those nearing retirement and entering it. To navigate these decisions, it may be wise to seek out an expert in elder law to assist. What is elder law? It is, collectively, the laws that protect and provide for seniors. Ultimately, it is designed to facilitate financial independence, personal freedom, and the general wellbeing of seniors for as long as possible.
Given the fact that the senior population is growing at a historical rate, elder law is needed today more than ever. However, like any kind of law, it can be a daunting and complicated process. SeniorSmart can help individuals entering retirement navigate the resources available to them to find the right elder law advocate for them.
What Is Elder Law Through History?
Elder law is a relatively new concept around the world, and in the U.S., in particular. But as the Baby Boom generation ages, elder law is becoming necessary for millions of individuals and families.
As you know, in the 1930s, the first antibiotics became available to the general public. When they did, the U.S. saw life expectancy jump by nearly ten years.
Life expectancy is a good thing, of course. But this jump brought new challenges for an aging population and the need for elder rights to prevent discrimination or abuse. Elder law has evolved to address these and other challenges.
The Older Americans Act of 1965 first officially recognized the need for age-related rights and protections. It established services to support aging. Programs like Social Security, Medicare, Meals-on-Wheels didn’t all come about at once. But they were certainly born out of this movement to establish protections and services for seniors.
Continuous advancements in healthcare and inclusive community structures have also meant that seniors can live more healthy, active, and independent lives for longer. So what is elder law? It’s laws that continue to evolve to meet aging needs.
What Falls Under Elder Law?
What is elder law? It’s important to note that it’s not just a set of rules. Many areas of law can become elder law when an older person is involved. Some of the most common areas of elder law include things like:
- Estate planning
- Conservatorship and Power of Attorney (POA)
- Elder abuse
- Fraud committed by loved ones or acquaintances
- Age discrimination
- Medicaid, Medicare, private insurance
- Advanced directives regarding the measures doctors may use to keep you alive
However, states, not the federal government, regulate most elder law. So rules, rights, and protections may vary based on where you live.
What Kinds of Professional Services Are Associated with Elder Law?
First of all, lawyers who are interested in protecting the rights of seniors may specialize in elder law. It’s not unlike a personal injury attorney specializing in personal injury. But other professionals may specialize or work with elder law as well. Some of these include:
- Social workers
- Financial planners
- Senior living facilities
- Mental health professionals
- Medical professionals
- Non-profit senior advocacy groups
Elder Law Resources for Older Alabamans and Their Families
For example, the Alabama Department of Senior Services has created a thorough guide for seniors and loved ones explaining what elder law is. The University of Alabama offers free legal assistance for those over 60 facing elder law issues in West Alabama.