As one aspect of its Fall 2011 Consultations, the LCO distributed a questionnaire to individual older adults. The questionnaire was designed to complement the other aspects of the consultation, including the focus groups and the Stakeholder Event, by gathering input from older adults across the province about their experiences with and perceptions of the law. Questionnaires were distributed to older adult networks throughout Ontario, including through the public libraries system and partnering organizations such as the Retired Teachers of Ontario, the Ontario Association of Residents’ Councils, Women’s Institutes, and others. The results were instrumental in developing the LCO’s Framework for the Law as it Affects Older Adults, and are reflected throughout the Final Report. This Appendix provides a brief overview of the results of the questionnaire.
It is important to note that this questionnaire was intended as a method of public consultation, and not as a validated social science instrument. Further, it was intended as only one aspect of the LCO’s consultations, which also included strategies to reach out to organizations and experts, and focus groups targeted to several marginalized groups of older adults. The questionnaire provided an opportunity for input to individual older adults not targeted by the focus groups. As all but one of the focus groups took place in Toronto, outreach to rural Ontarians through the questionnaire was important. As well, realizing that the questionnaire would be unlikely to elicit many responses from some groups, such as racialized, LGBTQ and low-income older adults, the focus groups were targeted to gather perspectives from such groups. Due to a very positive response and support from the long-term care sector, the questionnaire was also an effective means of providing an opportunity to contribute for this group.
A copy of the distributed questionnaire is appended to this document. It included a mix of scored questions and open-ended queries, focussing on three areas: principles to guide laws, programs and policies; understanding the circumstances of older adults; and enforcing rights.
B. Who Participated?
In total, 292 questionnaires were completed and returned to the LCO. Some reflected the responses of multiple individuals. The following is a demographic break-down of the respondents.
|Under 45||45-54||55-64||65-74||75-84||85 and over|
Gender: Female: 57% Male: 48%
Disability: Disability: 53% No Disability: 47%
Racialized: Yes: 4% No: 96%
Aboriginal identity: No respondents identified themselves as Aboriginal.
|On my own||With a spouse or partner||With my children||With extended family||In a group setting|
Urban/Rural Residence: It was difficult to determine with accuracy the percentage of respondents living in urban or rural area. However, a review of the addresses provided by respondents indicated a broad distribution across the province.
In Canada for less than 10 years? Yes : 1% No: 99%
Of those participants who checked-off “other”, those sources of income came primarily from disability benefits, foreign country pensions, and financial assistance from family members.
Note: The results of the questions regarding race and sexual orientation should be interpreted with caution as many respondents did not answer the question, and some indicated an objection to the question.
C. Responses to the Questionnaire
1. Attitudes and Aging
My older age is viewed as a positive attribute by people that I encounter.
Of those participants who agreed with the above statement (58%), many gave reasons related to the experience and wisdom they have accumulated in their general lives, their professions, and their volunteer work. Many claimed that “older adults…are experts in their field” and that younger generations appreciate this “expertise”.
Of those participants who disagreed with the above statement (17%), the primary reasons related to experiences of discrimination, devaluation or disrespect based on age. The instances of discrimination adduced ranged from the requirement of more frequent drivers licence testing to employment discrimination, which was a frequent complaint. Many respondents complained of being laid off or denied employment due to their age. Respondents experienced such instances of devaluation as being overlooked or being belittled, usually during social interactions. For instance, one participant made the typical complaint that “I am overlooked, when there isn’t anything wrong with my brain.” Another noted, “I find it problematic when I see…people automatically addressing the younger person accompanying an older person.” Comments regarding disrespect emphasized the media’s portrayal of older adults as “silly, foolish people” rather than people of dignity and intellect. Others noted the over-emphasis on older adult’s social and medical needs, while “the independence and self sufficiency evinced in most of our lives is overlooked”. Many participants also commented on patronizing treatment, assumptions of incompetence, and being talked to “like I’m a four year old”.
Respondents emphasized the importance of using public education to address negative attitudes related to aging. “Recognize the discrimination in ageism. The courts and society have recognized racism, sexism, homophobia, and disability but not ageism” remarked one man. Participants often reflected negatively on common stereotypes of older adults as incompetent, useless or frail, as well as stereotypes that depict older adults as a needy cohort, sucking up resources and requiring constant attention and care. Some respondents complained that even their own children and loved ones applied such stereotypes to them. They vehemently disavowed these stereotypes, and insisted that media and legislators promote anti-ageism education – both for the general public, and particularly for professionals providing services to older adults.
As an older person, I am usually treated as well as others when using public or private programs or services.
Positive comments about the above question emphasized the sensitivity and kindness of the public and service-workers toward older adults. Instances included the offering of seats on public transit, the giving of special assistance, the opening and holding of doors, and even the provision of “a little extra service” at banks and restaurants to older persons. Some participants also touted seniors’ discounts.
Negative comments about the above question focused on the perception that, as one ages, one receives less respect from store clerks, bank tellers and other service providers. Some respondents complained conversely that they had received patronizingly excessive assistance and special attention, leaving the older adult feeling demeaned and useless.