Elderly Project

Current Clinic Calendar | Elderly Project Blog

The Elderly Project staff and pro bono attorneys provide free legal advice, information, document drafting, and other brief services to low-income Manhattan residents aged 60 and over, and to the social workers and advocates who assist them. These services include direct counseling on critical issues involving housing, government benefits, and consumer debt, and the drafting and execution of wills, powers of attorney, and other essential life-planning documents. The Elderly Project emphasizes outreach to underserved populations with the goal of helping vulnerable seniors stay in their homes.

A key aspect of our success is our ability to combine social work resources already available to seniors with pro bono legal services. Currently, we work closely with 14 senior centers, share information and communicate regularly by e-mail with over 600 social workers and other advocates in the elder services community, and have a roster of over 150 volunteer lawyers from some of New York City’s best law firms.

How We Involve Pro Bono Lawyers

We offer all of our prospective volunteers a thorough, two-hour training, and a practical, soup-to-nuts manual on the drafting and execution of life-planning documents for low-income seniors. We then carefully screen and assess the cases of seniors with life-planning needs, and refer appropriate matters to our volunteers. Our clients are usually referred to us by a social worker, and many have the additional support of other on-site staff at senior housing developments and senior centers or long-term care agency personnel.

How We Serve Our Clients

  • We conduct 12 monthly walk-in legal advice and brief service clinics at Manhattan senior centers. At the clinics, seniors can discuss their legal problems with an attorney in confidence, receive advice and brief services, and, if appropriate, obtain a referral to a volunteer lawyer for representation.  Seniors receive advice on legal matters in the areas of housing, consumer debt, public benefits, and life-planning documents.  Referrals are also provided to organizations that can provide representation in these and other types of legal matters.
  • Through telephone and e-mail consultations, we provide legal information and advice to case managers, social workers and other advocates in Manhattan’s elder services network to help them better serve their clients.
  • We present information sessions to seniors and advocates at senior centers and other community organizations on a variety of topics including life-planning documents like wills, powers of attorney, and health care directives; government benefits such as Medicaid, SSI and SCRIE; landlord-tenant issues; and consumer law matters.
  • We coordinate and supervise the referral of eligible clients seeking assistance with their wills and other life-planning documents to a roster of over 150 volunteer lawyers working at New York City law firms. The attorneys meet with clients either at the law firms or, for the homebound elderly, in those clients’ homes.
  • We publish guides for senior center staff, advocates, and family members, including A Guide to Burial Assistance and Funeral Planning for New Yorkers in Need and An Advocate's Guide to SCRIE.

Success Story

An 86-Year-Old Woman Gains Peace of Mind

An 86-year-old homebound woman with no immediate family wanted to ensure that her wishes for cremation would be honored, that her possessions would be distributed to friends and charities, and that someone would take care of her pet after she died. A VOLS volunteer attorney visited her in her home for an extensive initial client interview, drafted the legal documents requested by the client and then returned to the client’s home with witnesses and a notary public to carry out the formal signing of the documents. Now she can rest assured that her wishes will be respected.