Central to any discussion of the living arrangements of older adults is the principle of “aging in place”. This is the principle that older persons should not have to move from their homes in order to access the support services necessary to their changing needs. Key barriers to aging in place include lack of accessible housing, transportation and community resources. Furthermore, for many older adults, their house is their major asset, and they may find themselves “house-rich but cash poor”. For this reason, some older adults turn to the controversial expedient of “reverse mortgages”, which allow older adults to borrow against the value of their house, without making loan payments until the title is transferred and the loan comes due.[54]

Contrary to stereotypes, most older adults continue to live in private dwellings. Only seven per cent of Canadians aged 65 or older live in institutional settings. The likelihood of living in such a setting increases with age: 32 per cent of Canadians over the age of 85 live in an institutional setting, and due to the longer life expectancy of women, these residents are disproportionately older women.[55]

Institutional living settings for older adults include care homes, commonly referred to as “retirement homes”, and long-term care facilities. Long term care facilities are the subject of special regulatory regimes, such as the Nursing Homes Act,[56] Homes for the Aged and Rest Homes Act[57] and the Charitable Institutions Act.[58] These statutes set out requirements for licensing, admissions, care plans, charges and fees, and inspections. Legislation has been passed that will, upon proclamation, repeal these statutes and replace them with a new Long Term Care Homes Act, 2007.[59] Living accommodation that falls within the scope of these Acts is exempted from the protections of the Residential Tenancies Act, 2006. [60]

“Retirement homes” are not the subject of comparable specific, comprehensive legislation. They fall within the ambit of the general provisions of the Residential Tenancies Act. That Act also sets out some special provisions for “care homes”, including specific standards for tenancy agreements and termination of leases or “transfer out” of tenants in these facilities. Advocates have raised concerns regarding the lack of comprehensive regulation of the care home industry, and have identified significant issues related to improper evictions, use of restraints, failure to accommodate the disability-related needs of residents, and inadequate procedures for addressing complaints. In 2007, the Ontario Seniors Secretariat conducted public consultations on regulation of retirement homes. Based on the results of these consultations, the government committed to introduce consumer protection legislation that would set standards of care and service for retirement homes.[61] Legislation has not yet been introduced.

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