- Published: June 8, 2015
In December of 2007, The New York Times printed an article entitled, “Shielding Money Clashes with Elders’ Free Will”. The article described the life of an 81 year old man, Mr. Pyle, who has been living on a pension since 1989. He was living very well until 1999, when his wife died. He was very lonely and longed for friends who he could talk to on a regular basis. He met a middle-aged, single woman who was trying to raise a child without a steady job. After talking regularly for a while, Mr. Pyle offered to help the women out by giving her a series of small loans. As time went on, Mr. Pyle gave more and more money to the lady, who never paid him back. As Mr. Pyle’s debt grew, he tried to attain money in many different ways, including loans that he could not repay and eventually selling his house for much less than it was worth. Mr. Pyle, who now lives with his stepdaughter, has filed a lawsuit saying he should receive some compensation for this period of his life, claiming he is getting old and was not able to make the decisions he should have.
As we know, as we grow older we experience neural degeneration that can cause significant changes in our personalities. In many cases, elderly people, especially those who have lost their spouses, cling to their close friends much more than any other time in their lives. They will often do nearly anything to please and gain the acceptance of their friends. If such an elderly person does not have any close friends, they will reach out to anyone who will listen and they will work even harder to please that person. They have too much trust in the idea that people are generally good. This is what happened to Mr. Pyle. He was very lonely after he lost his wife, so he reached out and found a needy lady who would act like his friend. By giving her money, he felt like he was becoming closer friends with her. When a 19 year old boy came and offered to buy Mr. Pyle’s house, he trusted that the boy would be good and do what was best for him. So, when the boy gave him an offer, which was significantly lower than the house’s actual worth, Mr. Pyle accepted. How can we determine whether elderly people are able to handle their own finances? We cannot simply say that at a certain age people are no longer capable to manage their finances; that would impede on their free will and independence. We could do psychiatric tests to see if a person is still fully able to make their own financial decisions, but most elderly people do not even know that their mental stability is declining and would not seek psychiatric advice. There is very little leniency for elderly people. When a young person makes a mistake, they are not usually held accountable. This is not the case when someone gets older and “should know better”.Charles Duhigg. "Shielding Money Clashes With Elders' Free Will". New York Times. December 24, 2007