A different legal standard for aging seniors?
The New York Times issue for December 24, 2007, published a provocative examination of the issue of elderly responsibility. It noted the spate of legislation in various states intended to address "elder abuse" and unethical marketing practices targeting the vulnerable elderly. These statutes in turn have spawned lawsuits (the Times counted about 700) attempting to hold someone else responsible for financial catastrophes suffered by willing but gullible elderly--some of whom have no clearly documented evidence of any form of dementia.
The Times noted that most states treat contracts made by young persons nearing adulthood as "voidable" and questions whether we will ultimately decide that long-lived but intellectually dependent seniors must have similar protections. It also noted, however, that most seniors would be repulsed by the threat of losing their independence and being forced to acquiesce in some form of custodial relationship--either with family or the government.
The Times' article carefully examined several cases where apparently-capable seniors were persuaded to make dreadful investments or financial decisions, resulting in the total loss of an otherwise secure financial future. As our population ages and controls an even greater percentage of the country's wealth, this issue will not go away and should receive further thoughtful consideration.