I've been talking a lot about cognitive impairment, how complex an issue it is, and what a very grey area incapacity is. In fact, I cannot think of one single issue with more gradations of grey. Discussions about the issue of age as one of mental incapacity's determining factors becomes more and more critical as 78 million American baby boomers (and about 500 million baby boomers worldwide) obtain the title of "senior citizen" at an unprecedented rate of over 10,000 per day (that's 61,000 per day, globally).
Food for thought:
The benchmark of 65 for "old age" dates back to the days of Kaiser Wilhelm in the late 1800's, followed by the creation of America's Social Security program in the early 1900's. But keep in mind, the average life expectancy back then was considerably shorter than it is now. We need to ask ourselves: just because Mama celebrated her 65th birthday, did that automatically drop her onto the slippery slope to dementia and incapacity?
Question: when do we draw the line between someone's right to make a decision -- bad or not -- and someone's ability to comprehend the long-range consequences of that decision? Adult children may not like the idea that their dad, who has $1.2 million in his coffers, has suddenly decided to take up with a woman 35 years his junior, but the fact remains: as long as Dad is not being unduly influenced and has capacity, he has every legal, moral and constitutional right to make any decision he wants about his finances or his love life.
Whether it's proper or appropriate or stupid or just patently unfair to his beneficiaries, those are questions for a completely different forum. But whether or not someone has the right -- well, let's just say that we need to be extremely cautious when considering whether to deprive someone of their rights or assume that a decision we don't approve of is confirmation of mental impairment, simply because of the person's age.
Keep in mind: every single one of us has one thing in common: if we don't die young, we are eventually going to be old. Which means at some point we will be subject to the very laws we are considering for dear old Dad.
Pamela S. K. Glasner is a published author and a filmmaker. More information about "Last Will and Embezzlement" and Ms. Glasner (writer/producer) and Deborah Louise Robinson (director/producer) can be found at www.lastwillandembezzlement.com, https://www.facebook.com/#!/DebLouRobinson, http://youtu.be/WJCDQpqHPEQ, and http://tinyurl.com/2cn8bpo.
Copyright by Pamela S. K. Glasner © 2012, All Rights Reserved