Using the Framework

This Framework for the Law as It Affects Older Adults is intended to guide the development and evaluation of laws, policies and practices so that they take into account the realities of the circumstances and experiences of older adults, and promote positive outcomes for these members of society.  It is composed of principles and factors to take into account in applying the principles, and uses a step-by-step approach. It has been developed for use by:

  • policy-makers, courts and legislators;
  • advocacy organizations and community groups that work with older people and deal with issues affecting older adults; and
  • public and private actors that develop or administer policies or programs that may affect older adults.

The accompanying Final Report: A Framework for the Law as It Affects Older Adults sets out the research and analysis which form the basis for the Framework, and provides extended examples of its implications and implementation.  Throughout the Framework, we have made links to the relevant sections of the Report. All of the referenced LCO documents may be found on the LCO website at http://www.lco-cdo.org.   

This Framework is intended to be applicable across all laws and policies, including both those that apply specifically to older adults and those that will affect older adults as members of the general population. As it is general in this sense, some may find it helpful to adapt it to their own particular area of law or policy. It should be noted that, given the breadth and diversity of the law as it affects older adults, not all sections of the Framework will be relevant for every law, policy or practice. 

It is not the purpose of this Framework to point to simple, definitive answers to all of the difficult issues that may arise in developing laws, policies and practices that may affect older adults. The law and the circumstances of older adults are complex and diverse. The nature of aging and our understanding of its personal and societal implications are constantly evolving. Rather, the Framework is intended to assist law and policy-makers to: 

  1. consider and apply a consistent set of principles in developing laws, policies and practices that may affect older persons;
  2. ensure that potential barriers and sources of ageism in laws and policies are identified and addressed; and
  3. take into account key aspects of the relationships of older adults with the law.  

This Framework is the result of extensive research and public consultation. It is built upon and expands on work already done in this area, including the National Framework on Aging(NFA) and Seniors Policy Lens, the Special Senate  Committee Report on Aging, the work of the Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) on human rights and older age, international documents such as the United Nations International Principles for Older Persons (IPOP), and other important initiatives that have been undertaken in Canada and globally over the last fifteen years. It has roots in the legal foundations of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the Ontario Human Rights Code and the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA), and as such has foundations in the legal obligations and policy commitments that bind governments. It does not replace current documents, but aims to build on these foundations and provide a basis for the further development of the law as it affects older adults. The LCO recognizes that this is an evolving area of the law, and this project is not intended as a final word on the subject, but as a contribution to ongoing research, analysis and debate.

  • For more information on the LCO’s approach to, and development of the Framework see the Final Report, Chapter I.  

Definitions

“Ageism”: For the purposes of this Framework, ageism may be defined as a belief system, analogous to racism, sexism or ableism, that attributes specific qualities and abilities to persons on the basis of their age. Ageism may manifest with respect to older adults in attitudes that see them as less worthy of respect and consideration, less able to contribute and participate in society, and of less inherent value than others. Ageism may be conscious or unconscious, and may be embedded in institutions, systems or the broader culture of a society.

“Diversity”: For the purposes of this Framework, diversity refers to a number of aspects of difference among individuals that may impact on the way that they encounter the law. It includes the wide range of identities that individuals may hold and that may intersect with the experience of aging, such as those related to sexual orientation, racialization, citizenship, Aboriginal identity, (dis)ability, and many others. It also includes the range of barriers that individuals may encounter that may complicate the experience of aging, such as those related to geographic location or place of residence, caregiving responsibilities, socio-economic status and others. It also recognizes that the experiences of each individual will be shaped by their life course, and that this may lead to differences that should be taken into account.

“The Law”:  The term “law” as it is used for this project includes both statutes and regulations. It also includes the policies through which statutes and regulations are applied, and the strategies and practices through which statutory provisions, regulations and policies are implemented. As such, the implementation of laws is as important as their substance. Laws may be beneficial in intention and on paper, but in practice fall short of their goals or even have negative effects. Whenever the term “law” is used in this Framework, it is used in this broad sense.

“Older adults”: The terms “older adults” or “older persons” are used interchangeably in this Framework. For the purposes of this Framework, the LCO has adopted an expansive approach to defining “older adults” as including all those who have been identified as “old” or “older”, whether through legal and policy frameworks, social attitudes and perceptions, or self-identification. 

“Substantive Equality”: Substantive equality is often contrasted with “formal equality”. It goes beyond simple non-discrimination. It includes values of dignity and worth, the opportunity to participate, having one’s needs met, and the opportunity to live in a society whose structures and organizations include them. It recognizes and responds to societal patterns that result in different outcomes on the basis of irrelevant characteristics, as well as real differences that inappropriately disadvantage members of a particular group (such as women’s capacity for reproduction). Substantive equality may require differential treatment in order to fulfil these values.   

 

Principles for the Law as It Affects Older Adults 

In order to counteract negative stereotypes and assumptions about older adults, reaffirm the status of older adults as equal members of society and bearers of both rights and responsibilities, and encourage government to take positive steps to secure the wellbeing of older adults, this Framework centres on a set of principles to be considered for the law as it affects older adults. 

Each of the six principles contributes to an overarching goal of promoting substantive equality for older adults. The concept of equality is central to both the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Ontario Human Rights Code, The Supreme Court has recognized that governments may have a positive duty to promote the equality of disadvantaged groups. Observance of the principles ought to move law and policy in the direction of advancing substantive equality, and interpretation of the principles must be informed by the concept of substantive equality. Substantive equality is about more than simple non-discrimination, and includes values of dignity and worth, the opportunity to participate, and the necessity of taking needs into account. It aims towards a society whose structures and organizations include marginalized groups and do not leave them outside mainstream society

There is no hierarchy among the principles, and although they are identified separately, the principles must be understood in relationship with each other. The principles may reinforce each other or may be in tension with one another as they apply to concrete situations.

  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 pro