06/19/2012 06:41 pm ET Updated Aug 19, 2012

Elder Exploitation -- Is Legislation the Answer?

On Friday, June 15, the United Nations Secretary-General issued a formal statement urging the world at large to do a better job protecting the human rights of our elderly. He cited some excellent reasons for this requested vigilance: statistics as well as the consequences of doing nothing. He even pointed out that "respect for elders is an integral part of many societies."

Then he went on to say that over the years, the General Assembly had adopted several resolutions in that regard.

On the surface, it's a wonderful thing he's done. Reading that article in the Jurist Legal News, a non-profit online news and research site supported by the University of Pittsburgh School of Law, can give you a wonderful case of the warm fuzzies knowing that this man, and this news source, and this worldwide organization have all banded together to fight the good fight for the sake of the elderly. It certainly did warm my heart when I read it.

But then something else followed the warm fuzzies -- something not so warm and not so fuzzy and, in fact, rather dark and sinister.

When did the elderly become a 'subset' of our population with less rights than anyone else? Why should they even need special legislation or resolutions? Don't they already, simply by virtue of being born and still having a pulse, have the right to rely on all the privileges and protections that any other citizen has? When did we, as a society, stop protecting those who came before us and gave us all we have, including life?

When did the felonious treatment of the elderly become so commonplace as to elicit such callous responses as, "I know, ma'am -- we see this kind of thing all the time" from the legal profession and from law enforcement? I cannot tell you how many times, when fighting for my parents, I heard that phrase, which was invariably followed by nothing. No incensed epithets for the perpetrator, no vows of justice for the victims, certainly no action -- just indifference and apathy.

I know that life has changed dramatically since the days of our grandparents. Social mores have been stretched and pounded and reshaped to the point that they are completely unrecognizable by those who came before. Morality is in the eye of the beholder. But certain things -- my God -- certain things should be sacrosanct, shouldn't they?

We ought to be remembering what it is to be human and what it means to be part of society. But since that cannot be forced upon anyone, we need to do the next best thing: we need to protect ourselves -- because I am not convinced that legislation is the answer.

We need to arm ourselves; we need to learn to pay attention. We need to ask questions and initiate conversations that are just about guaranteed to be awkward and uncomfortable -- and we need to do it anyway. We need to educate ourselves and our loved ones, and then we need to take all that information and pass it on down the line to the next person.

That is what's going to make the difference between being truly safe in this world and being a victim -- or a victim's daughter.

Because I'll tell you something: every single one of us -- you, me, everyone who reads this, and everyone who doesn't -- has one thing in common: unless we die young, we're headed directly into old age. And we damned well better do something about the financial exploitation of the elderly now, because 'too late' is coming up real fast.

Pamela S. K. Glasner is a published author and a filmmaker. More information about the documentary film "Last Will and Embezzlement" and Ms. Glasner can be found at,, and

Copyright by Pamela S. K. Glasner © 2012, All Rights Reserved