Older people and legal advice – the need for joined up and creative approaches
Joe Duffy, Subhajit Basu & Katherine C. Pearson
Journal of Social Welfare and Family Law
Volume 34, Issue 1, 2012
This paper reports the findings from research conducted with older people in Northern Ireland which investigated whether their needs for legal information and advice were being met. One of the unique aspects of the research involved investigating the potential of the internet as a possible source for advising older people in relation to legal problems. The findings suggest that online legal information may frequently assist older people in identifying potential answers to their legal questions, but may not be an adequate substitute for personal communication and advice. The research also highlights the need for professionals to work together to meet the needs of older persons for legal advice and to safeguard their interests. Such ‘joined up’ approaches are particularly important, for example at the point of dementia diagnosis, where information sharing between health and social care professionals may significantly promote the legal and welfare interests of older people at a vulnerable point in their lives. This paper therefore turns to work by university-based legal clinics in the United States, such as the Elder Law Clinic at Pennsylvania State University, where social work or healthcare professionals, lawyers and law students collaborate to support older people in their search for resolution of legal problems.