Legal Assistance to the Elderly

State and county governmental agencies on aging are, under the provisions of the Older Americans Act of 1965, designated to serve as advocates for older people, coordinate activities on their behalf, and provide information to them regarding services and opportunities. Another governmental organization, the Legal Services Corporation, in cooperation with the National Senior Citizens Law Center, provides assistance and support to attorneys and paralegals throughout the nation. Several American universities have also established legal service centers to help older adults cope with governmental and private-sector bureaucracies. Professional organizations, such as the American Bar Association, the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys, and the National Elder Law Foundation,5 have contributed to the establishment of certification programs and procedures for attorneys specializing in the provision of legal assistance to older Americans. Many attorneys who specialize in such services focus on poor and middle-income older adults who require assistance in maintaining income, health, housing, and autonomy. More specifically, they deal with a host of legal problems ranging from faulty automobile repairs, bothersome door-to-door salesmen, writing a simple will, missing Social Security benefits, and evictions or home foreclosures.

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