Ageism is everywhere

The Guardian columnist Alexander Chancellor makes some great comments today about ageism and mentions Tony Marshall, son of Brooke Astor, whose trial is scheduled to begin Monday:

So perhaps the best and cheapest form of health insurance is to be very nice to your children, in the hope they will be sufficiently grateful to take good care of you in your old age. After all, even great wealth is no guarantee against neglect.

On Monday, the much-postponed trial of Brooke Astor’s only child, 84-year-old Anthony Marshall, is due to open in New York.  Marshall is accused of defrauding his mother of millions of dollars by making her change her will when she was already more than 100 years old and mentally confused. Brooke Astor, whom I knew a little in her 90s, was then still the queen of New York society, a tremendous gossip and flirt, and a much-admired philanthropist. She died in August 2007 at the age of 105.

Her error seems to have been that she was never interested in her son, a former marine corps officer and American ambassador whom she used to describe as “boring”. He is accused of taking his revenge after she passed 100 (and he 80) when, as her legal guardian, he fired most of her servants, sold her favourite painting, deprived her of flowers, makeup, medicine and new clothes, prevented her from seeing her two pet corgis, and allowed her bedroom to become so cold that she was forced to sleep on a drawing-room sofa smelling of dog urine.

These charges were brought by Marshall’s own 56-year-old son, Philip, whom he in turn seems to have neglected in childhood. This was another error, for it resulted not only in him being stripped of his guardianship of his mother in a civil action, but also in him being indicted on criminal charges of fraud and larceny that are to be tried next week.

I repeat, be nice to your children. It’s the only way.

Most Americans may not have the same level of wealth as Astor, but they are just as susceptible to abuse and to their end-of-life wishes being ignored as well as their estate plans being subverted.  Wealth is relative and in today’s world more than ever, people will shamelessly steal property of the dead and disabled/incapacitated.

Forewarned is forearmed!