The implementation of a law is equally as important as its substantive provisions. Laws may be positive in their conception and on paper, but in practice may be cumbersome, difficult to access, or otherwise ineffective in achieving their goals. This section applies the principles to the implementation of the law, including considerations related to training and education, resources and provision of adequate supports and accommodations for age-related needs.
Applying the Principles to Step 5
Note: “Law” here refers to law, policy and practice, as appropriate.
Well-intentioned laws may fail to achieve their purposes due to problems in implementation. Many laws are exceedingly complex, so that understanding and navigating them requires considerable effort and expertise, and older adults may be expected to do so on their own, without supports or the appropriate accommodations where these are required. Those operating such systems may have an imperfect understanding of the needs and circumstances of older persons, or may harbor ageist attitudes or assumptions. Often such systems are under-resourced and under strain.
Applying the principles to these processes requires that older adults be treated with dignity when seeking to access the law. Those implementing the law must have the skills, knowledge and resources to treat those accessing it with respect, accommodate their needs, and ensure they receive any supports or benefits to which they are entitled. Responding to diversity requires that systems be able to accommodate the particular needs of individuals, including needs arising from the accumulated effects of the life course or the intersection of older age with other aspects of identity. The principles of autonomy and independence, and participation and inclusion require that systems intended to serve older adults can be understood and navigated by them, which requires provision of appropriate information and supports.
For information on access to the law for older adults, see the Final Report, Chapter V.
QUESTIONS FOR CONSIDERATION IN APPLYING STEP 5
Have sufficient human and financial resources been allocated to ensure that older persons will receive the services intended by the law with dignity and respect?
a. Are there mechanisms in place for identifying significant unmet needs?
b. Where resources are limited, does the law include clear, transparent and principled criteria and priorities for how scarce resources should be allocated?
c. In the implementation of laws of general application, where resources are limited, have the needs of older persons been given equal consideration with those of other groups?
Have the processes under the law been designed to be as simple and transparent as possible for users?
Does the law include clear rights to services to be provided and accountability for providing those services in a timely, respectful, accessible and appropriate manner?
Have those charged with implementation of the law been provided with adequate ongoing training and education to enable them to perform their duties in a way that respects the principles, including training and education on:
a. the substance of the law in question, as well as the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the Ontario Human Rights Code and accessibility requirements under theAODA?
b. anti-ageism, including common negative stereotypes and assumptions about older persons in general and particular groups of older adults, access and accommodation issues for older adults, and systemic barriers?
Have mechanisms been developed to ensure that older persons are informed about their rights and responsibilities under the law, and that they have access to the information necessary to seek access to their rights? Do these mechanisms address common barriers? For example:
a. has information been provided on where individuals can seek further information or supports for accessing their rights or exercising their responsibilities?
b. have strategies been developed to disseminate information to organizations that represent, advocate for or support older persons?
c. is information available in disability-accessible formats that comply with the provisions of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act and the Ontario Human Rights Code?
d. is information available in plain language?
e. is information available in non-written formats (such as by telephone)?
f. is information available to persons living in settings such as long-term care homes where there may be more limited access to the broader community and to information?
g. is information available to persons living in rural or remote settings?
h. is information available in multiple languages?
If the access mechanism is complex or multi-stage, have supports or advocacy services been provided to ensure that older persons are able to navigate the system, particularly those older persons who face additional barriers due to disability, low-income, language barriers or other issues?
Have the services been designed to include and accommodate the particular needs of older persons, including those who are facing additional barriers due to low-income, or who have needs related to other aspects of their identities?
APPLYING THE FRAMEWORK: EXAMPLES OF THE RELATIONSHIP OF THE PRINCIPLES TO PROCESSES UNDER THE LAW
Providing Accessible Information – NICE and CLEO
The law in general, and as it affects older adults, is often complex and confusing. Many older adults, as well as those providing services to older adults, have difficulty locating information about rights and responsibilities under the law or face barriers to doing so. This undermines the ability of laws to achieve their goals (and thereby the principles). The lack of information also undermines the autonomy of older adults in that they lack sufficient information to make meaningful choices.
Two organizations address these issues, at different levels. The National Initiative for the Care of the Elderly (NICE) is an international network of researchers, practitioners and students with a mandate to improve the care of older adults through initiatives related to networking and knowledge transfer. NICE has developed a range of practical tools in a number of areas to help older adults and those working in the field to better understand rights and responsibilities under the law. Community Legal Education Ontario (CLEO) has a mandate to provide accessible plain-language information about the law, so that people are able to understand and exercise their rights. CLEO’s work has a particular focus on those who face barriers to accessing information, such as those living in low-income and newcomers. Community legal clinics and other organizations also use these publications to help clients with legal problems.
For information on accessible information and empowering older adults, see the Final Report, Chapter V.C.2.
Seniors-Focused Services – Policing
Several police forces in Ontario and across Canada have developed specialized services or departments to address particular risks or disadvantages for older adults. For example, the Seniors’ Issues Office of the Elliot Lake Police Force blends social work and policing service with the goal of supporting and promoting the independence and security of seniors in Elliot Lake. The Office was started to supply assistance for seniors who may be alone or isolated and do not venture out of their residences for a month or more. It consists of a seniors’ community development project which focuses on promoting the positive aspects of social support: familiarity, interdependency, a sense of belonging and a sense of connectedness to the community; and a seniors’ prevention/intervention project, aimed at seniors conside