Older Adults – Final Report From LCO

On Friday I was sitting working at the Toronto Reference Library (well, in the new Balzac’s coffee shop) when a fellow named David sat beside me and we started to chat. He had just been to a senior’s information event at the library, and had a bag full of reports and brochures. He shared what he had learned with me since “you will need this someday, too.” (Sooner than you think, David!)

I was surprised to see he had the Ontario Law Commission’s Older Adults Final Report which was released in April 2012. Back in August 2011, Michel-Adrien Sheppard told us about consultations that were taking place around a Draft Framework for the Law as it Affects Older Adults.

From the Executive Summary:

The starting point of an approach to the law that advances substantive equality is to recognize the existence of older adults as a group who may in some respects have different needs and experiences from many younger persons, whether due to the accumulated effects of their life courses, social structures, or marginalization and stereotyping of older persons, and to take those particular needs and circumstances into account when designing laws, policies and programs.

Understanding the circumstances of older adults can be challenging for a number of reasons. Older adults make up a large segment of the population of Ontario and Canada: therefore, it can be difficult to form meaningful generalizations about their circumstances and experiences. As a result of ongoing demographic shifts, changing social attitudes and rapidly evolving legal and policy landscapes, the circumstances of older adults are constantly changing. What is true now about the experiences of older adults may not be true five years from now and may not have been true five years ago. As well, the lives and circumstances of older adults are profoundly shaped, not only by current laws and policies, but also by those that were in effect when they were children, young adults and middle-aged. To understand the current experiences and circumstances of older adults, we must view them in the context of their accumulated life experiences (that is, their “life course”).

A Framework for the Law as It Affects Older Adults: Advancing Substantive Equality for Older Persons Through Law, Policy and Practice has also been created. Here are the Principles from the Highlights of the Framework:

Principles for the Law as it Affects Older Persons

The Framework provides that the evaluation of laws, policies and practices as they may affect older adults should be based on six principles.

  1. Respecting Dignity and Worth: This principle recognizes the inherent, equal and inalienable worth of every individual, including every older adult. All members of the human family are full persons, unique and irreplaceable. The principle therefore includes the right to be valued, respected and considered; to have both one’s contributions and one’s needs recognized; and to be treated as an individual. It includes a right to be treated equally and without discrimination.
  2. Fostering Autonomy and Independence: This principle recognizes the right of older persons to make choices for themselves, based on the presumption of ability and the recognition of the legitimacy of choice. It further recognizes the right of older persons to do as much for themselves as possible. The achievement of this principle may require measures to enhance capacity to make choices and to do for oneself, including the provision of appropriate supports.
  3. Promoting Participation and Inclusion: This principle recognizes the right to be actively engaged in and integrated in one’s community, and to have a meaningful role in affairs. Inclusion and participation is enabled when laws, policies and practices are designed in a way that promotes the ability of older persons to be actively involved in their communities and removes physical, social, attitudinal and systemic barriers to that involvement, especially for those who have experienced marginalization and exclusion. An important aspect of participation is the right of older adults to be meaningfully consulted on issues that affect them, whether at the individual or the group level.
  4. Recognizing the Importance of Security: This principle recognizes the right to be free from physical, psychological, sexual or financial abuse or exploitation, and the right to access basic supports such as health, legal and social services.
  5. Responding to Diversity and Individuality: This principle recognizes that older adults are individuals, with needs and circumstances that may be affected by a wide range of factors such as gender, racialization, Aboriginal identity, immigration or citizenship status, disability or health status, sexual orientation, creed, geographic location, place of residence, or other aspects of their identities, the effects of which may accumulate over the life course. Older adults are not a homogenous group and the law must take into account and accommodate the impact of this diversity.
  6. Understanding Membership in the Broader Community: This principle recognizes the reciprocal rights and obligations among all members of society and across generations past, present and future, and that the law should reflect mutual understanding and obligation and work towards a society that is inclusive for all ages.

Well, you never know what you will learn from other people!

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Comments

  1. fine principles, all of them. Is there a single one that could not be appled without amendment to a human being of any age, or at least over the age of, say, six?

  2. I believe the point is that these are not necessarily being taken into account for older adults for various reasons, so making them explicit in the Framework can help to ensure they are taken into account.

    From the Introduction, section B. Approaches to Developing a Framework for the Law as It Affects Older Persons, subsection 6. Recognizing the “Implementation Gap” – Taking a Broad Approach to “the Law”

    There are laws whose provisions are problematic in terms of their effects on older adults, whether because they incorporate ageist attitudes into their substance or because they fail to take into account the realities of existence for older persons. In many cases, however, the law is sound on paper, but problematic in practice. Laws, policies and practices that are in theory neutral or even intended to benefit older persons may fall short of their goal or have unintended negative consequences. There are many reasons for this, including negative attitudes on the part of those charged with implementing the law or policy, failure to provide age-related accommodations for accessing programs or services, adversarial approaches to program implementation, resource limitations, or lack of accountability, monitoring and transparency.