Stirring the Pot

CARP’s new le­gal ex­pert looks to bat­tle ageism by chal­leng­ing dis­c­riman­tory laws and poli­cies

ZOOMER Magazine - - CONTENTS -

In­tro­duc­ing Laura Tam­blyn Watts, CARP’s new le­gal ex­pert

IN OR­DER TO EN­SURE that CARP con­tin­ues to ful­fill its man­date – to fos­ter a new vi­sion of aging in Canada – the or­ga­ni­za­tion rec­og­nized a need to ramp up its ex­per­tise in the fields of le­gal re­search and pol­icy de­vel­op­ment.

And when Laura Tam­blyn Watts ex­pressed in­ter­est in tak­ing on that highly chal­leng­ing as­sign­ment, CARP jumped at the op­por­tu­nity to hire some­one who vir­tu­ally pi­o­neered this field.

An en­er­getic, pas­sion­ate and whip-smart lawyer, au­thor, teacher, fa­cil­i­ta­tor, me­dia com­men­ta­tor, hockey-and-swim­ming mother of three, Tam­blyn Watts brings with her a vast wealth of con­tacts, knowl­edge and ex­pe­ri­ence to her new role as CARP’s first na­tional di­rec­tor of law, pol­icy and re­search.

Peter Mug­geridge in­ter­viewed Tam­blyn Watts on her sec­ond day on the job, ask­ing her to ex­plain why el­der law has be­come such an im­por­tant field and how she’ll be reach­ing out to hear the sto­ries of CARP mem­bers from across Canada.

Peter Mug­geridge You were an early adopter of el­der law, a field that barely ex­isted when you grad­u­ated from law school. How did you end up there? Laura Tam­blyn Watts I’ve al­ways been in­ter­ested in is­sues of rights and causes. As a young lawyer, I also did some es­tate work and med­i­cal law work. Plus, I was very close to my grand­fa­ther. And from my high school and un­der­grad­u­ate years, I vol­un­teered with the Alzheimer’s So­ci­ety – that was very im­por­tant to me. My in­ter­est in rights, dis­crim­i­na­tion, fi­nan­cial, es­tate law and my con­nec­tion with older peo­ple – it all sud­denly clicked to­gether.

PM Was there a “eureka” mo­ment? LTW Yes, I was at a con­fer­ence on el­der law and, as I heard an older per­son dis­cuss their ex­pe­ri­ences, I was struck by lighting – this is what I wanted to do.

PM How do you de­fine el­der law? LTW There are en­tire books writ­ten on the sub­ject. Some peo­ple say it’s about wills, es­tates, trusts, health, etc. I think of el­der law as a lens that I put over my eyes. When look at any le­gal is­sue through this lens, I ask: “How does this im­pact older peo­ple?” Some ad­vo­cates look at law and pol­icy through a women’s lens or an in­dige­nous lens. I look at it through an aging lens.

PM Are law schools pay­ing enough at­ten­tion to the le­gal is­sues of aging? LTW I teach a class in law and aging at the Univer­sity of Toronto, but it’s an area that’s been shock­ingly un­der-taught. Po­lice of­fi­cers, doc­tors, nurses, so­cial work­ers all need to know more in this area. But as so­ci­ety ages, we’re get­ting des­per­ate for ex­per­tise in this space. It’s the same with medicine – few doc­tors want to be geri­a­tri­cians. But we need more geri­a­tri­cians.

PM De­scribe your ex­pe­ri­ence in the field? LTW I helped found the Cana­dian Cen­tre for El­der Law in B.C. and served as na­tional di­rec­tor

for many years. When I moved to Toronto to be with my fi­ancé (Michael Tam­blyn, one of the founders and cur­rent CEO of Kobo) I con­tin­ued to work with CCEL on a num­ber of ma­jor law re­form projects that led to the de­vel­op­ment of rec­om­men­da­tions that even­tu­ally got adopted into law.

PM Give us an ex­am­ple of how you changed a law to ben­e­fit older Cana­di­ans. LTW One of our big suc­cesses (which we ac­com­plished with CARP’s in­put) was de­vel­op­ing poli­cies to help in­vest­ment ad­vis­ers bet­ter serve their older clients. First, we wanted ad­vis­ers to be able to rec­og­nize el­der fi­nan­cial abuse and, sec­ond, to help them un­der­stand how cog­ni­tive im­pair­ment can neg­a­tively af­fect older peo­ple’s in­vest­ment de­ci­sions. Our rec­om­men­da­tions were even­tu­ally ap­proved by older in­vestors, se­cu­rity reg­u­la­tors, gov­ern­ment pol­icy-mak­ers, the in­vest­ment in­dus­try and fi­nan­cial in­sti­tu­tions – it was a big win across the board.

PM A quick Google search on you re­veals hun­dreds of ar­ti­cles that quote you on a myr­iad of dif­fer­ent el­der-law sub­jects. How do you stay cur­rent with this rapidly evolv­ing and com­plex sphere? LTW I’m a vo­ra­cious reader – ev­ery day I go home and spend hours read­ing peer-re­viewed ar­ti­cles, jour­nals and so­cial me­dia. (I’ve used my dig­i­tal reader in the bath­tub so much that I think it led to my hus­band de­vel­op­ing a wa­ter­proof Kobo.) Se­condly, I lean on other ex­perts in the field who are al­ways eager to help. And lastly, I’m con­stantly chal­leng­ing my­self to learn more in new ar­eas.

CARP Why did you make the move to CARP? LTW I was in­spired by the po­ten­tial of CARP. With 300,000 mem­bers in ev­ery com­mu­nity across Canada, I was deeply com­pelled by the op­por­tu­nity to reach into that and build new re­la­tion­ships. I’ve al­ready had sev­eral re­search or­ga­ni­za­tions reach out to me and say we’re so ex­cited about the op­por­tu­nity to en­gage with CARP mem­bers.

PM You’re CARP’s first na­tional di­rec­tor of law, pol­icy and re­search. What’s your vi­sion for this role? LTW I’m hop­ing to be a bridge and con­nec­tor with or­ga­ni­za­tions, re­searchers, gov­ern­ment pol­icy de­vel­op­ers and busi­nesses that want to con­sult with our mem­bers, who want to make sure they can get into the com­mu­nity to hear the ex­pe­ri­ences. I look for­ward to trav­el­ling across the coun­try to make those re­la­tion­ships be­cause the ex­pe­ri­ence of an older per­son in Sandy Cove, N.S., will be dif­fer­ent from some­body in Sud­bury, Ont., and dif­fer­ent from some­one in down­town Van­cou­ver.

PM CARP mem­bers are ex­tremely in­ter­ested in ad­vo­cacy and pol­icy is­sues. How will you tap into this en­gage­ment? LTW I look for­ward to hear­ing their sto­ries. Many of the ma­jor law re­form projects I’ve worked on have been ini­ti­ated by hav­ing a cup of cof­fee with some­one and lis­ten­ing to his or her spe­cific is­sue. My No. 1 role will be fig­ur­ing out how do we use th­ese sto­ries to drive change.

PM Any im­me­di­ate pri­or­i­ties? LTW There are so many is­sues to get to, but some of my im­me­di­ate pol­icy goals would be: (a) en­sure that older peo­ple have greater ac­cess to vac­cines and boost­ers that have been tested on older peo­ple; (b) that long-term care fa­cil­i­ties are safe and sup­port­ive of res­i­dents’ in­di­vid­ual rights; (c) chang­ing leg­is­la­tion and cre­at­ing ser­vices to re­duce phys­i­cal and fi­nan­cial el­der abuse; (d) cre­at­ing a di­a­logue with fi­nan­cial in­sti­tu­tions about aware­ness of is­sues of aging.

PM How will you mea­sure suc­cess? LTW I will con­sider it a suc­cess if I can ini­ti­ate good prac­tice, good pol­icy and good law to the de­gree in which it ad­vances CARP’s plat­forms. In the next few years, as CARP ma­tures and ex­pands, I hope we’ll be­come the des­ti­na­tion gov­ern­ment, busi­ness and re­search or­ga­ni­za­tions come to for our in­ter­nal and ex­ter­nal ex­per­tise.

PM What so­ci­etal change would you like to see hap­pen dur­ing your time at CARP? LTW Right now, so­ci­ety puts so much time, ef­fort, re­sources and money into the is­sues of youth. I think it’s time we spent more on aging be­cause that’s what we spend most of our lives do­ing. I’d like to change so­ci­ety so that peo­ple have a great ex­pe­ri­ence dur­ing their en­tire life­span.

“Ev­ery day I go home and spend hours read­ing peer-re­viewed ar­ti­cles, jour­nals and so­cial me­dia”

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