Sen. Shirkey | Courtesy


Senior cit­izens have more state-pro­vided ben­efits available to them than they often know, state Sen. Mike Shirkey, R-Mich., said at a town hall spe­cially designed for seniors on Monday.

“You need to know if you’re a senior and have a legal problem and don’t know where to go, you can get help,” he said.

Shirkey used the oppor­tunity to introduce Ron Tatro of the state orga­nized Elder Law to explain how senior cit­izens are entitled to free legal advice on how to put their affairs in order as they approach the ends of their lives.

“Most of the issues that senior cit­izens bring to us can be solved over the phone,” he said.

According to Tatro, senior cit­izens often have a hard time accessing help when dealing with issues like credit card debt, wills, and identity theft.

“I’ve found that seniors are the most prideful people in our society,” he said. “They do not want handouts.”

Tatro explained that seniors tend to be at a greater risk of fraud than other demo­graphics because their age can often inhibit their judgement. Tatro called it the Buick Effect. As seniors’ ability to make rational deci­sions goes down, their con­fi­dence in their deci­sions goes up.

“The moral of the story,” Tatro said, “is that seniors become the most sus­cep­tible to scams and need to be sur­rounded by the people whom they trust to help make their deci­sions.”

Local attorney Sandra George attested to this assertion, recalling how her elderly friend had been entrapped in a sit­u­ation where she felt that was not being taken care of.

George’s friend had asked her to take her from a care facility to the doctor in the morning. Although she did not have legal authority as a care­giver to do so, George agreed for her friend’s well-being. According to the state, however, this act could be con­sidered kid­napping.

“As an attorney, I’m not worried about this,” she said. “But what about someone else?”

George char­ac­terized the sit­u­ation as stressful for both her and her friend and said it was indicative of the often con­fusing legal sit­u­a­tions in which the elderly inad­ver­tently find them­selves.

“People need to know that they can be helped,” Tatro said.