My wonderfully supportive maternal and paternal grandparents provided me a life-long source of inspiration; they were wise, dignified, and fiercely independent in thoughts and deeds, commanding as opposed to demanding respect. Because of my relationship with each of them, I have always reserved a special place in my heart for the elderly.
Mentors such as one of my former employers, Jewel LaFontant-Mankarious’, career soared, rather than declined as she approached 3 scores and 10; a former client, Greeta Poindexter, shared with me over lunch her personal aging journey, including learning to swim at age 79; Attorney George Collins, a dear friend and mentor with a true zest for living, used his keen intellect to represent both lawyers and judges until his passing at age 85; another mentor, Judge Earl B. Strayhorn, at the age of 87 chauffeured me to our much anticipated monthly luncheons where many life lessons were shared. These uplifting examples of older adults coupled with my practice of elder law and service as a guardian ad litem, helped to mold me as a person and brought me to the place I find myself today, Chair of the Commission on Law and Aging.
I became involved with the ABA’s Commission on Law and Aging around the same time that my chief judge asked me to create an Elder Law Division of the Circuit Court of Cook County. Development of the Division’s Elder Protection Court and Elder Justice Center was informed via contacts and information derived from the Commission; it was instrumental in introducing me to a broad aging network and a wealth of information and resources.
Oftentimes, I have said or thought that there ought to be a policy, program, law or resolution to address such issues as: elder abuse, advance care planning, supportive decision making, and rights for older adults. Through its director, staff and commissioners, the Commission remains in the forefront by conducting research, developing policies and initiatives, and providing technical assistance on the local, state, and national level.
The ABA Commission on Law and Aging, true to its mission, enables me as well as many others to more effectively improve access to justice for older adults.