Throughout this paper, a number of themes have arisen. First, ageism and the law is not as much about chronological age per se, as it is the social construction of aging. Ageism reflects the way that society (including its laws or absence of laws, its policies, and practices towards older adults or adults generally in that society) is structured to include older adults or leave them at the margins. Much of the law as it relates to older adults is represented by what is not there, such as lack of regulatory safeguards in the type of housing in which they live, and the lack of effective redress.

Second, ageism frequently intersects with other statuses such as socio-economic, as well as gender, disability, or race to create the negative effects seen in later life. Efforts that focus only on the age component of ageism to the exclusion of these other intersecting identities are unlikely to produce a rich framework for understanding aging and the law and the effects of the law on older adults. Understanding the role of and the intersection of gender with ageism is essential. Many of the areas in which the law has disproportionate impact on older adults’ lives are at transitional points such as widowhood.

Third, ageism is very wide ranging in its manifestations. This is particularly evident in the ways that housing laws are structured (especially which interests are captured in those laws) and in many health care practices. Also, when taken together, `small issues` that individually might not seem to present a disproportionate burden on older adults, can reflect a wider spread societal pattern of devaluing, subordinating, marginalizing and facilitating the invisibility of older adults. As a result, substantive equality and social justice are often illusory.

Fourth, guiding principles for responding to older adults in the context of law and policy, such as independence, participation, security, dignity, and respect for diversity, can be valuable starting points. However, any guiding principles in this area must be able to take into account both the life of the mentally capable, independent individual and the person whose mental capability , physical or social resources may be deteriorating. They are both older adults, and they may be the same person at different points in life. Guiding principles must also be able to acknowledge interdependence –the ongoing relationships that older adults may have with others, including family and service providers. Finally, older adults experience innumerable barriers in terms of access to justice, reflective of the subordination of not only their interests, but those of many other marginalized persons. Efforts to address these barriers are a necessity, but they will not be sufficient to assuring a more inclusive and more responsive legal and social system that includes older adults.

Previous Next
First Page Last Page
Table of Contents