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.


Applying the Principles

Effectively interpreting and applying the principles to laws, policies and practices requires

  • Taking the circumstances of older adults into account: undertake research and consultation to understand how older persons, with their particular circumstances and experiences, will be affected, taking into account the impact of their experiences throughout their life courses.
  • Treating the law as person-centred: consider the law from the perspective of the individuals encountering it, who are whole persons with multiple needs and identities, and may be dealing with multiple systems and life changes.
  • Designing the law to include: while in some cases it may be necessary or most appropriate to design specific laws, practices, programs or policies to meet the needs of older adults, in most cases an approach that is responsive to individuals at various stages of the life course and incorporates older adults into the overall design of the law will be most effective.
  • Paying attention to implementation issues: even where laws are intended positively, they may fail to reach their goals or may have unintended negative effects because of ineffective implementation – for example, insufficient resources, staff training or public communication.
  • Progressively realizing the principles: efforts to improve the law should be undertaken continually as understandings and resources evolve.

Taking a Step-by-Step Approach to Applying the Principles

The Framework applies the principles and considerations to laws, policies and practices in a step-by-step fashion.

Step 1: How Do the Principles Relate to the Context of the Law? Identify the context in which the law will operate and its relationship to the principles.

Step 2: Does the Legislative Development/Review Process Respect the Principles? Consider whether the process that has been designed for developing or reviewing the law respects the principles.

Step 3: Does the Purpose of the Law Respect and Fulfil the Principles?  Assess the goals of the law, including the assumptions on which it is based.

Step 4: Who Does the Law Affect and How Does This Relate to the Principles? Analyze the way in which the law may affect older adults and how this may impact on respect for the principles.

Step 5: Do the Processes Under the Law Respect the Principles? Consider the procedural aspects of the law, including provisions related to accessibility, information provision, and supports for applicants.

Step 6: Do the Complaint and Enforcement Mechanisms Respect the Principles? Assess how the law is enforced, whether through proactive measures like audits, or individual complaint mechanisms.

Step 7: Do the Monitoring and Accountability Mechanisms Respect the Principles? Does the law contain provisions to ensure transparency, accountability and monitoring of its effectiveness?

Step 8: Final Assessment: Is the Law True to the Principles? Based on the results of the previous steps, is the law true to the principles? What more must be done?