Sunday night’s episode of Last Week Tonight focused on senior citizens, a group John Oliver described as, “the people who stay active by playing shuffleboard, going on walks, or performing their hit song ‘I Can’t Get No Satisfaction’ in packed arenas around the world.” According to Oliver, 49 million Americans are age 65 or over. That number is expected to rise as baby boomers age in what is being called the “Silver Tsunami,” which Oliver claims is also Christopher Plummer’s stage name at “his underground cage fighting ring.” Senior citizens who don’t have detailed financial plans or family to watch out for them can frequently end up in guardianships, where a judge assigns an outside party to monitor their finances.
Guardianship, however, frequently goes wrong, and Oliver prepared a few jaw-dropping stories to prove it. According to Oliver, there are currently some 1.3 million active seniors under guardianship. Those guardians frequently take care of multiple wards, and are granted access to everything from medical records to bank accounts with one expert claiming that wards have fewer rights than prisoners. It’s when guardians get access to their wards’ finances that things get particularly messy, and many seniors have filed complaints about the billing practices of guardians.
According to Oliver, regulating guardianship is the responsibility of state and local courts, many of whom have no training or resources to properly monitor cases. In Texas, an audit revealed that some 3,000 wards were actually dead and, as Oliver notes, the absolute least you should know about someone in your care is whether they are alive. “If a zookeeper didn’t know if 3,000 of his animals were dead, you would put someone else in charge of that f–king zoo,” he says. “Or at least rebrand it as an open air exotic meat market.”
While Oliver hopes that oversight and regulation of guardianship will improve, until then the best way to protect your loved ones is to have an honest conversation with them, which Oliver agrees “sounds like a f—ing nightmare.” To help kick start the potentially awkward conversation, Oliver conscripted a galaxy of senior stars, including Cloris Leachman, Lily Tomlin, William Shatner, Fred Willard, and Rita Moreno to share some pointers. The takeaway? Make Tom Hanks your legal guardian and avoid hippos at all costs.