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Elder mediation part 2: Common issues

by Anita Phillips

In my last post, I explored some of the basics of elder mediation, also known as intergenerational mediation. Here, I will look at common issues that bring families to mediation and how conflicts are resolved during the process.


A vehicle is often among a senior’s most prized possessions. Quite apart from its monetary value, a car can be a symbol of independence for older drivers, especially those living in remote or rural areas. 

The physical and mental changes that come with age often lead to concerns about the safety of both older drivers themselves and the general public.

I know that some families are unwilling to broach the topic, even after witnessing a loved one’s unsafe behaviour behind the wheel, pinning their hopes instead on the Ontario government to take the matter out of their hands via its special requirements for drivers over 80 years of age

However, the testing that this landmark birthday prompts is not as rigorous as many expect and does not always involve a road test portion, so you should not be surprised if the senior being tested keeps their licence.

Elder mediation is a good place for friends and family to raise their concerns over a person’s safety behind the wheel and to discuss alternative methods of transportation to fill the gap if they were to stop driving themselves.

Living arrangements

The living arrangements of an older person are another frequent source of family tension, which is liable to boil over at times of transition.

For example, a senior may disagree with loved ones over their ability to live independently in their home, resisting any discussion of alternatives, which may include assisted living, long-term care, or moving in with one of their children.

Disputes frequently arise among a senior’s children when one sibling assumes primary responsibility for their care and feels their efforts are under-appreciated by other family members. On the flip side, siblings with a more distant relationship could become concerned about their older parent’s closeness with a brother or sister who they feel is unwilling or unable to provide the necessary level of care.

Elder mediation provides a forum for everyone to speak frankly about their worries and explore options for moving forward. After a change in a senior’s residence, sessions could also broaden to focus on the extra issues brought on by new living arrangements, as well as freshly affected parties, which may include grandchildren and in-laws adapting to the challenges of multi-generational living. 


Assessing an older person’s capacity to manage certain areas of responsibility on their own is a complex enough task for health professionals, let alone non-medically trained family members with emotional ties to the senior. 

Depending on the frequency and duration of their visits with an elderly loved one, different people will draw varying conclusions on signs that a senior may be developing dementia or other forms of cognitive decline. In addition, no amount of evidence may be enough to convince a child in denial about the reality of a parent in declining health. 

An elder mediator can help family members discuss their concerns and explain their perspectives about a senior’s cognitive ability and aid them in exploring the idea of a capacity assessment with an older person — or another family member — who is resistant. 

In situations where a diagnosis has already been made, or there is no doubt about an older person’s vulnerability, intergenerational meditation sessions may focus discussions on issues such as wandering, management of finances, and other areas of concern and ways that participants can come up with a plan to keep their loved one safe. 


Money talk is taboo for many Canadians, and it’s no different when older people are involved. Family and friends of seniors may be unwilling to speak up about poor financial decision-making, fearing accusations that their motivations are tainted by the threat to their potential inheritance.

But in the safe space of an intergenerational mediation session, people can voice previously unspoken concerns about issues such as an older person’s apparently reckless spending or suspicions that a new friend or romantic partner may be taking advantage of them and engaging in financial abuse. 

While it would not be appropriate for mediation to occur involving a person whose elder abuse has been substantiated, the process can help families tease out suspicions of previously unnoticed abuse and implement plans to prevent future instances.

On the other hand, children sometimes develop an exaggerated sense of their older parents’ vulnerability, without understanding that a person with legal capacity is entitled to make their own decisions about their property. In these cases, elder mediation sessions can help seniors express their desire for — and right to — autonomy over their finances and other aspects of their life. 

If you would like to explore if intergenerational mediation is right for you, schedule a consultation with me here.

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by Anita Phillips

Anita Phillips has extensive experience as a family and estate law lawyer. She has particular expertise in negotiating and drafting domestic contracts and in developing estate plans for clients with blended families and for business owners.