About Elder Mediation

Elder, or senior mediation, is a growing and evolving field which is becoming known as an effective way for families and older relatives to address aging issues. Services are being offered or developed at many locations around the country, by private mediators, court and other staff mediators, and community mediation programs. Courts in numerous jurisdictions around the country are beginning to order parties to mediation in contested adult guardianship cases.

Our older population is growing rapidly, living in challenging times, and can benefit from skilled facilitation in initiating difficult conversations and making decisions with family members and others regarding their needs. Elder mediators recognize the potential need to make appropriate accommodations within the process for possible physical, cognitive or social limitations so as to provide maximum effective participation of the parties and promote informed self-determination. Senior mediation services are adapting to offer a continuum of services depending on the needs of the parties.

Mediation is a process in which an impartial third party assists older persons, their families, caregivers and others to have difficult conversations, make decisions and resolve conflicts around transitions that may come with aging and other issues faced by older adults. Mediation is voluntary and the mediation contents are kept confidential by the mediator. Mediation empowers the participants to make decisions that work for them, and frequently enables the older person to remain in the community.

In addition to discussions about guardianship, elder mediation may involve decision-making around such issues as preservation of independence, care giving needs, estate planning, resources in the community and alternatives to guardianship, living arrangements and housing changes, health care, insurance, social security and other public benefits, in addition to other family, consumer, commercial and neighbor conflicts. The mediation may include many people, some of whom may be geographically dispersed. Support persons and advocates may be part of the conversation. Advanced training is recommended in this complex area. The Association for Conflict Resolution's new Elder Decision-Making and Conflict Resolution Section is developing training standards for elder mediation.

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