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.