Older people want to exercise autonomy in their choices, like they always have. And to the extent they can still understand the consequences of their actions, they are entitled to do so. As we often tell clients struggling with concerns about older loved ones: “Just because someone is old doesn’t mean they can’t make bad decisions. We all do that.”
A court can only get involved to protect people from their own actions, if it can be shown that because of some problem with the way their brain works, they no longer have the wherewithal to make rational decisions. That’s why courts often require medical evidence, such as a diagnoses of Alzheimer’s disease or proof of some other form of age-related cognitive impairment, before allowing a case to be filed. Without that, a court has no authority to tell someone what they can or cannot do, no matter how objectively bad that decision may appear to those around them.
When it comes to dating and marriage, an older person may well understand that the other party to the relationship is not in it for love, but is looking for financial security or some other benefit from the relationship. If they can understand that, and make a decision to stay with that person notwithstanding, there really isn’t anything the law can do to “protect” them.