5 Reasons Growing Old In 2010's Is A Total Nightmare
Good news: People are living longer than ever. Bad news: what we just said. It turns out that our world wasn't made to take care of this many old people, leading to unexpected and unfortunate consequences for those foolish enough to stick with this whole "life" thing ... Wait, crap! That's us!
Nobody Knows What To Do With Geriatric Prisoners And Sex Offenders
Although a sector of society would prefer that we simply dumped all criminals in a hole and forgot about them, we still have to make sure they have access to stuff like clothes, food, and toilet paper (or at least old newspapers). Taking care of one prison inmate is already expensive enough. Taking care of one who needs special food and whose hip breaks if they slump awkwardly on a chair? That's four to nine times more expensive, on average. And that's kind of a problem, because inmates over 55 represent the fastest-growing prison population in the U.S.
It's not that there are suddenly packs of roving grandmas mugging people in the streets -- it's that we're living longer, so there are more elderly everything. In 2015, old people accounted for 10 percent of America's prison population, a 400 percent jump compared to 1993. As long as people continue aging and doing crimes, that type of growth is unsustainable. So what can we do about it? One idea is to transfer them to special geriatric units, but that would cost a lot of money in itself. Also, many of the old prisoners are against that, because they would lose their "informal caregivers" within the prison population. Like, maybe Skull-Kicker Pete saved Dicey Carlos from getting shanked 15 years ago, and now Carlos pre-chews his food for him.
Another approach is to release prisoners who are too old and frail to be a threat to society, but the process is such a bureaucratic nightmare that inmates keep dying off before they see freedom. One inmate, a drug dealer serving a life sentence, was passed up for the "compassionate release" program, despite being in a near-vegetative state. Then you have cases like the 83-year-old sex offender who was released to a nursing home because he was deemed "too sick to hurt anyone again," only for him to go and molest a 95-year-old woman and grope a hospital worker.
Speaking of sex offenders, what do we do with those jerks? They rarely end up with loving families tending to their every need in their waning days, for some reason, so they go to nursing homes and such. Problem is, there are no federal regulations dictating how long-term care facilities should handle sex offenders, so lots of nursing homes don't bother notifying other residents that the new arrival can't go near any playgrounds. How about creating nursing homes just for sex offenders, then? Well, Oklahoma actually passed a bill to create such a place. That was in 2008. Not one single bid to construct it was submitted.
Welp, any bets for which state will be first to pass "Put them in a hole" legislation? We got $50 on Texas.
It's Shockingly Easy For Legal Guardians To Take Over Senior Citizens' Lives And Ruin Them
Legal guardians exist in great part to make sure that elderly people don't have their finances plundered by unscrupulous individuals, like credit card companies or whoever sells them those wretched ceramic clown figurines. Unfortunately, that puts the guardians in a prime position to do the plundering themselves.
While the rules vary by state, Nevada, for instance, only requires guardians to take a course, to never have committed a felony, and to have never filed for bankruptcy. Jamba Juice managers are screened more rigorously. Also, a court can appoint a guardian for a senior citizen without them or their family even knowing about it. As a result, for years, guardians in Las Vegas ran a racket whereby they could march into the home of a 60-something couple they'd never met, inform them they were their court-appointed nanny, and forcibly move them to a nursing home. Every remotely valuable item they owned could then be sold, with the money going straight into the guardian's bank account -- for safekeeping, you see. This was on top of (over)charging the "wards" for every interaction they had. And if anyone in the family protested? Well, here's a real exchange:
Of course, these guardians did more than scam old people all day. They also scammed disabled ones. Take Kristina Berger, a 52-year-old Nevada resident suffering from extreme bipolar disorder who had recently lost her mother/caretaker. No worries, the county appointed her a legal guardian. Over the course of five years, this guardian proceeded to drain around $495,000 from Berger's estate. Meanwhile, Berger lived on $250 a week. This would probably still be going on if a bank investigator hadn't noticed suspicious activity on the guardian's account (she was sucking various wards dry) and flagged it. Yes, legal guardians can make bank employees look like saints.
Obviously, many guardians are perfectly fine human beings, but states like Nevada might want to take greater precautions to ensure vulnerable people aren't taken advantage of. Like, maybe make them take two courses instead of one. Just a thought.
Millions Of Elderly Americans Don't Have The Right To Sue Their Nursing Homes, Even If There's Gross Negligence
Reading the fine print in contracts is a basic life skill none of us possess, but we imagine it's especially annoying when you can barely read normal-sized print. Unfortunately, nursing homes are using this universal character flaw to sneak some sinister stuff into their contracts, and it's about to get even harder to fight them on this (or on anything else, for that matter).
In 2011, an 87-year-old nun in Alabama was raped by an unknown man who apparently just walked into her nursing home room (there was no sign of forced entry). Afterward, she received no help or assistance from the staff. A pretty clear case of negligence, right? Nope, it wasn't a case of any sort, because the contract she signed when she arrived at the nursing home waived her right to sue them for any reason. The scary part is that they legally don't even have to tell you you're signing away your rights in the first place. It's called a pre-dispute binding arbitration, and it essentially means that if anything horrible happens to you in a nursing home, they can do whatever they want about it. Including nothing.
The only recourse is arbitration, such as in a credit card disagreement, but rather than disputing some dubious Alibaba purchases, you're arguing about, say, whether your granny got punched by a nurse or not. To give you an idea of how scummy these places can be, the abused nun's nursing home argued that her abrasion marks came not from rape but from masturbation (despite the presence of semen). Not only was the nursing home not found at fault, but the nun's family was stuck with the arbitration bill.
According to Time, an estimated 90 percent of large nursing home chains in America have clauses like this one. And if you don't want to sign? You're welcome to go live in a dumpster, for all they care. In 2016, the Obama administration introduced a new rule to prevent nursing homes from forcing pre-dispute agreements on senior citizens, but Obama's successor has been working diligently to undo it. Which isn't surprising, since this is the same administration that appointed a man who evicted an old woman over a payment error of 27 cents to head the Treasury. Boy, we're starting to get the impression these guys are up to no good.
Seniors Are RV'ing Across The Country In Search Of Work
Nowadays, senior citizens in America might regale you with tales of the times when they'd travel across the country looking for any work they might find, be it mowing grass, cleaning homes, or picking beets in Minnesota. You know, the good ol' days of, uh, last week.
In 2000, four million American senior citizens had to work. Today it's nine million. The problem is that our lives aren't only getting longer; they're also getting more expensive. And since one in five Americans have no savings, a similar percentage need jobs. While some elders work to have something to do all day, the majority do it because, well, starving ain't fun. Few employers were paying into retirement funds, and as people didn't (often because they couldn't) save enough, a growing number are hitting the road as "workampers," buying RVs and traveling across the country in search of low-paying and temporary jobs with no benefits but immediate cash. It's like The Grapes Of Wrath, but in slow motion.
Where others see a modern tragedy, companies like Amazon and Walmart see a perfect opportunity for cheap seasonal labor. Seniors can park their RVs in the lots of Walmart stores where they work as greeters, while Amazon offers them short-term jobs during the Christmas packing rush. Yes, it's very possible that the Lego Avengers set you bought yourself last December was packed by an old guy called Gene who fought in Korea.
Then there's the irony of seniors serving seniors. Maine needs temporary workers in the summer for its cruise season, so workampers come to serve their wealthy demographic counterparts, waiting tables, driving tour buses, and cleaning the messes in their respective toilets. Which might help explain our next entry ...
Suicide Is Terrifyingly High Among The Elderly
Common sense says that old people should be almost impervious to suicide. They're wiser and more experienced than most of us, they're less likely to have an emotional meltdown because their girlfriend dumped them or their favorite band broke up, and perhaps more importantly, they've made it this far. Even if they absolutely hate life, they know they only have to stick around for a few more years before the Grim Reaper shows up on his own.
Unfortunately, that's not what the numbers say. In the United States, 12.4 per 100,000 people in general commit suicide, but for those over 65, that number jumps to 14.9. That's without counting all the elderly suicides that coroners "go to great lengths" to report as accidents, because this shit is existentially terrifying for everyone. To be fair, seniors in America make fewer suicide attempts than younger people, but they die more often. Why? It's less about them being frail and more about the fact that they're old-fashioned and favor guns as a method.
Asia is where things get really dark for old people, or anyone who is a fan of them being alive. Elder suicides have exploded in places like South Korea (400 percent increase since 1990), Taiwan, Hong Kong, and China (over twice the national average). The irony is that this is happening in countries with increased wealth and economic growth, but that's probably not a coincidence. Societal changes mean that mass amounts of people have moved from rural areas to the cities, leaving their old folks back home all alone and depressed. China's former one-child policy hasn't helped, either. In America, if one of your kids is an ingrate who won't visit or call, at least you have, on average, 2.14 other children to rely on. In China, you're stuck with the one.
Then there's Japan, where old people don't have the highest suicide rate ... but only because its suicide rate for 35-64-year-olds is unusually high.
In this case, the rate is also tied to economic growth: Japanese people are working themselves to death, literally. That ... that's a thing? Please forgive us as we lazily don't think of a way to end this paragraph.
Chris Scott owns a bookstore in a small Midwestern town, like in Penthouse! She is a regular contributor to Prairie Dog Magazine. S.S.A. is also on TopBuzz. You can make Mike Bedard's grandparents very proud of him by following him on Twitter.
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