Courts of the Future and the Aging Population

“Images of the future are shaped by experiences of the past.” – Michael Lewis in the Undoing Project

The Globe and Mail recently reported about the court’s obstacles with handling an aging population. The article is titled: “Case of Calgary man with dementia highlights challenges courts face as population ages

The defendant Fred Van Zuiden recently turned 87 years old. He grew up in Nazi-occuped Holland. As a young Jewish boy he hid in strangers’ homes and a chicken coop. In October 2016, he was charged with second-degree murder of his wife. He called 911 after his wife’s death. “When the police talked to him he thought they were Nazis…” He was suffering with dementia, and was found unfit to stand trial.

Laura Tamblyn Watts, staff lawyer and senior fellow at the Canadian Centre for Elder Law, explained to the Globe and Mail that the challenge of an aging population is broader than dementia. “It’s hard to have a right to a fair trial if older people can’t hear the proceedings, can’t see the evidence, are having a hard time remembering the issues against them or are having a hard time accessing services.”

As we improve our courts, we should keep accessibility in mind. Currently our courts are designed for the able-bodied lawyer. Rules Committees need to design our processes beyond the able-bodied lawyer. We need to think of the hearing impaired, the visually impaired, and those with learning disabilities and invisible disabilities in redesigning our court processes.

(Views are my own and do not represent the views of any organization.)

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