Older Adults:

Although we use the term “older adults”, it is important to recognize that older adults differ from each other in many ways, just as other members of the population do. It is also important to appreciate that many older adults are healthy, have sufficient income and otherwise can lead active lives, while others may face increased poverty and ill health and may lead more limited lives.

Demographics relating to older adults are rapidly shifting, and law, policy and practice must evolve to adapt to changing realities. For example:

  • In 2005, persons aged 65 and older made up approximately 13 percent of Canada’s population. It is anticipated that by 2036, that will increase to 25 percent.
  • Most persons aged 65 and older live in their own homes, and strongly prefer to do so. Only about seven percent of older adults live in retirement homes or long-term care. The likelihood of living in such settings increases with age, and is greater for women than for men. Laws regarding home care, retirement homes and long-term care are increasingly in the spotlight.
  • While older adults as a whole are relatively less likely than younger persons to live in low-income, some groups, like unattached older women, experience relatively high levels of low income. Shifts in retirement savings and pensions may point to increased levels of low-income among older adults in the future.
  • More older persons are seeking to remain in the labour force past the standard retirement age. However, older persons report pervasive age discrimination among employers.

Laws Affecting Older Persons:

There are still many laws that are based on age. For example:

  • Regulations under the Employment Standards Act limit the right of persons over age 65 to receive employment benefits equal to those of their younger co-workers.
  • Drivers aged 80 and older must undergo a written test, vision test, and a group education session every two years in order to maintain their licenses.
  • The Ontario Human Rights Code protects the ability of housing and service providers to provide preferential treatment to persons aged 65 and older.

General laws may have unanticipated effects on older persons. For example:

  • Laws revoking existing wills upon marriage may mean that older persons who develop dementia may not be able to control the disposition of their estates after a late-life marriage.
  • The most common form of elder abuse is the misuse of continuing powers of attorney to misappropriate the assets of an aging parent or family member.

Older Adults and the Legal System:

Many people find it difficult to access and enforce their legal rights. Older people may face some extra challenges. For example:

  • Currently, older adults have on average lower levels of prose and technological literacy than younger persons. This may make it more difficult for them to access information through websites, which is increasingly the dominant form of government communication.
  • Because the majority of persons over age 65 have withdrawn from the labour force and are reliant on fixed incomes for their livelihood, most older adults have limited ability to deal with significant unanticipated costs, including legal costs associated with filing complaints and enforcing rights.
  • With advancing age, older persons are increasingly likely to develop physical, sensory or cognitive disabilities that may make it more difficult to access legal services and institutions.