32 Hastings L.J. 1111 (1980-1981)
Protecting the Elderly: The New Paternalism

handle is hein.journals/hastlj32 and id is 1141 raw text is: Protecting the Elderly: The New
Paternalism
By JOHN J. REGAN*
A new public policy supporting and promoting government in-
tervention in the lives of the elderly has gathered momentum over
the past decade. These services, often known as Adult Protective
Services, were developed in response to several trends in the liv-
ing patterns of older people. First, because the elderly make up an
increasingly larger percentage of the population,1 social programs
designed to benefit them have attracted increasing attention from
legislators and social planners. While the number of persons sixty-
five and over is growing, the number of persons living to age sev-
enty-five and beyond is increasing dramatically.2 This group, the
oldest of the old, often has one or more health, social, economic, or
environmental problems that may require supportive services.
Moreover, the presence of a family to care for an elder living at
home is proving to be no guarantee that the aged person will re-
ceive attentive care. The phenomenon of elder abuse has joined
child abuse and the battered spouse as an example of the disinte-
grating family in modern society.3
The recent trend towards deinstitutionalization of mental
health care has provided another source of elderly candidates for
these social programs. Many states, motivated by changes in phi-
* Dean and Professor of Law, Hofstra Law School. B.A., 1951, Mary Immaculate Col-
lege; J.D., 1960, L.L.M., 1971, J.S.D., 1977, Columbia Law School.
1. At the beginning of 1980, 11.2% of the population-about 25,000,000 persons-was
age 65 or older. Between 1970 and 1979, the number of persons age 65 or older increased
23.5%, while those under 65 rose by only 6.3%. SENATE SPECIAL COMM. ON AGING, DEVELop-
MENTS IN AGING, 1979 (pt. I), S. REP. No. 613, 96th Cong., 2d Sess. xv-xvi (1980).
2. R. BUTLER & M. Lawis, AGING AND MENTAL HEALTH 5 (1977); FE. COUNCIL ON AG-
ING, PUBLIC POLICY AND THE FRAIL ELDERLY 16 (1978). In 1975, 38% of the elderly popula-
tion was age 75 or older. The group of persons who were age 85 or older constituted 8% of
the elderly population. Id.
3. See generally Elder Abuse, Joint Hearing before the Senate Special Comm. on
Aging and the House Select Comm. on Aging, 96th Cong., 2d Sess. (1980).

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