Located in the lower concourse of the Daley Center, right near the Starbucks, are the offices of the , Elder Justice Center of the Circuit Court of Cook County which opened on Sept. 3, 2013.The Center describes itself as "A new, elder-friendly resource center that is designed to help persons age 60 and over to navigate the Circuit Court of Cook County". ( Source : leaflet distributed by the Center)
Appointments can be made (312-603-9233) , or walk-ins are also welcome, Monday- Friday, 9 AM - 4 PM. Just ring the door bell.
The demographic changes in our population speak to the need to address the legal needs of this growing sector. " According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Administration on Aging, in 2009 there were 39.6 million Americans age 65 or older, but by 2030 there will be about 72.1 million people in the category — more than twice the number in 2000."
In addition to addressing the personal needs of seniors for various legal documents and advice for health, financial and estate matters. The vulnerability of older citizens, often gives rise to the need to legally address attempts to victimize and exploit our older citizens.
The Cook County Court has created an entire "Elder Law and Miscellaneous Remedies Division" [ Section (h ) ] to deal with issue of elder abuse and neglect. The staff in this Division "... are trained to be sensitive to vulnerabilities of elderly litigants and to identify underlying issues and concerns."
However, legal institutions and procedures can be especially difficult and challenging for older citizens. This is where the new Elder Justice Center provides the guidance to help them navigate the system that can protect their rights. The Center does not provide legal advice but rather helps elders to navigate the system through informed referrals, victim advocacy, mediation, counseling and informational programs.
The services are for those age 60 and over. The Center might be the first stop for a senior who has a problem but may be unsure what options, legal or otherwise, may exist to deal with that problem.
The Center, at present, has two full-time staff members, and several volunteers, including law students and social work interns.
A Nov. 2011 article in The Chicago Lawyer, "The changing population creates a growing niche for lawyers",points out, that the multi-faceted field of Elder Law has gone from obscurity, to wider recognition with a growing demand for legal services. For law students possibly interested in this expanding field, volunteering at the Elder Justice Center, could be a good way to "test the waters" for a potential career direction.
Since most of the work at the Center involves referral work, law students without a lot of legal courses under their belt, could still participate effectively. Those with greater knowledge & experience may want to check out the volunteer opportunities at the The Center for Disability & Elder Law (CDEL) , a Chicago area pro bono law firm.