Research into a new balance between empowerment and protection of the elderly

Opa tilt kleinkind op in de lucht. Foto: Johnny Cohen via Unsplash
Foto: Johnny Cohen via Unsplash.

A team of top researchers including professor Wendy Schrama (Utrecht University, UCERF), together with an interdisciplinary group academics and partners in society, has been awarded two million euros to design a new, modern system for the legal protection of the elderly.

The aim of the study is to design a proposal within six years for an up-to-date, evidence-based system of legal protection for senior citizens. A system that will give seniors a more dignified retirement age, with more control over their own lives. The research takes place in close collaboration with partners in society such as Alzheimer Nederland, banks, interest groups for seniors and professional associations of doctors and civil-law notaries, among others. The researchers strive for a better quality of legal decision-making, a better knowledge of the own rights of seniors and at the same time more protection against fraud.

Professor Wendy Schrama of Utrecht University is delighted with the start of this study. "We are delighted that we have received this funding from NWO. It enables us to work with a broadly composed group of academics and professional partners to arrive at a better legal system, which is really desperately needed in view of the current situation. This makes this study part of the core UCERF research, dealing with urgent societal issues. We try to contribute a more resilient society through empirical and comparative law research. "

This urgent societal issue is at the heart of our UCERF research. We want to contribute to a more resilient society.

The multidisciplinary research team consists of researchers from VU University Amsterdam: Masha Antokolskaia, Catrien Bijleveld (VU / NSCR), Kees Blankman, Eefje Sizoo (VUmc), Wendy Schrama (Utrecht University / UCERF) and Leon Verstappen (University of Groningen). The grant awarded comes from the NWA-ORC program of NWO.

New generation of seniors needs new legislation

People are living longer and more often have problems with their mental and physical health at a later age due to dementia and other conditions. As a result of a rapidly aging population, the need to address the special needs of vulnerable older people in care, housing and legal protection has become one of the most pressing societal problems.

The current system is outdated and no longer complies with human rights treaties.

The current Dutch system of measures for elderly protection is outdated. In summary, the three existing legal protection measures - guardianship, administration and mentorship - no longer meet the requirements of human rights treaties and the wishes of the current generation of elderly people. They place too much emphasis on protection at the expense of autonomy, automatically limit the legal capacity of the elderly and offer too few options for customization.

Being in charge of your own life

That is why the elderly are resorting en masse to the living will, a relatively new and less invasive instrument. The living will leaves more room for autonomy and does not affect legal capacity, but this is at the expense of protection, because there are no mandatory safeguards against possible abuse by the self-chosen representative. On balance, frail elderly people currently have the choice between two evils: doing nothing and running the risk of losing control of their lives later, or drawing up a living will and taking the risk of abuse.

About Wendy Scrhrama

Wendy Schrama is Professor of Family law and comparative law at Utrecht University. She is also the head of UCERF, the Utrecht Centre for European Research into Family Law. In her research, Professor Schrama focuses on the question whether the way in which relationship law is currently structured in the Netherlands and Europe contributes to the goals of relationship law. She specializes in the legal position of unmarried cohabitants.

Partners in society and at universities

The consortium consists of: VU Amsterdam, Utrecht University, University of Groningen, Amsterdam Medical Center location VUmc, Alzheimer Nederland, The Council for the Judiciary, Mantelzorg NL, Nederlandse Beroepsvereniging voor Professionele Mentoren, Vereniging Wettelijke Vertegenwoordigers, Mentorschap Nederland, Vereniging Artsen Volksgezondheid, Branchevereniging Professionele Bewindvoerders en Inkomensbeheerders, Gelderse Stichting voor Beheer en Bewindsvoering, Van Ewijk Estate Planning, Family Law in Europe: Academic Network, seniorenorganisatie KBO-PCOB, Dutch Banking Association, The Royal Dutch Association of Civil-law Notaries, Lokale Allianties financieel veilig ouder worden, NSCR.