Elder Mediation

By John Goodwin of John G. Goodwin, Family Mediator/Collaborative Family Lawyer/Family Lawyer posted in Family Mediation on Wednesday, January 25, 2017.

The number and percentage of seniors in our population are increasing and the issues around aging are increasing right along with it. The need for skilled help to deal with these issues is also increasing and that makes the growth of elder mediation in Canada vital.

The Numbers

The proportion of the senior population (aged 65 or older) has been increasing steadily over the past 40 years.

  • The number of Canadians aged 65 and older is up and is close to 5 million. The 2011 Census counted 4,945,060 people aged 65 and older in Canada, an increase of more than 609,810, or 14.1%, between 2006 and 2011.
  • This rate of growth was more than double the 5.9% increase for the Canadian population as a whole. (Statistics Canada December 21, 2015) 

Stats Canada recently reported that:

  • Seniors are projected to become more numerous than children in Canada by 2017-a milestone in the country’s history.
  • “The proportion of seniors within the population has been steadily growing since 1960, increasing from 8% at that time to 14% in 2009.
  • According to all population projection scenarios, seniors are expected to comprise around 23% to 25% of the population by 2036, and around 24% to 28% in 2061.
  • In 1971, the median age of the population was 26.2 years-it was 39.5 years in 2009.
  • The population’s median age is projected to continue rising to between 42 and 45 years by 2036, and then to between 42 and 47 years by 2061.(Statistics Canada, October 2016)

We also hear regularly in the media of the big wave of elder citizens about to overwhelm the health care system in the coming years.

What Is Elder Mediation?

Elder mediation is relatively new. According to the Family Mediation Canada website, “Elder Mediation” can be understood as follows:

  • It is “the mediation of any conflict or disagreement involving an older adult”.
  • It is a flexible, “elder friendly” process:

              o it is private, informal, supportive and non-confrontational

              o it is flexible as to who can attend and where a mediation can be                        held (i.e. location and participants).

Who can participate?

“Unlike more formal court-based processes that generally involve only the actual parties to a dispute, mediation allows for a range of people to be involved in the discussion. Since quite often the root of the problem lies beyond the actual parties to the disagreement and the specific issue in dispute, the participation of a number of people (such as family members and friends) goes a long way to resolving the problem in a true and lasting way.

An older adult may also feel more comfortable and confident engaging in difficult discussions where others – such as friends, family members, or members of the clergy – are present to give support.” The Ontario Association for Family Mediation (OAFM) tells us that “elder mediators” are professionally trained mediators who possess skilful, current knowledge about the types of issues that are particularly likely to be associated with older adults.

What Issues Does It Deal With?

The OAFM website lists the issues dealt with in elder mediation as follows:

  • estate and retirement planning,
  • driving and transportation,
  • housing and living arrangements,
  • health care and medical decision making,
  • safety in community and at home,
  • abuse and neglect,
  • caregiver responsibility,
  • relationship concerns,
  • new marriages and blended families,
  • religious issues,
  • holiday schedules,
  • financial concerns,
  • family business,
  • guardianship,and
  • end of life issues.

Elder mediation is already proving an invaluable process in helping seniors and their families resolve issues of aging. As the numbers and percentages of seniors increase, the need for this valuable service will become clear to all.