Ageism and the legal system
By Holly LeValliant
The Law Commission of Ontario has recommended changes in the legal system to ensure that the rights and circumstances of older people are recognized and respected. The idea that older people are part of a vulnerable group has been used to justify significant interference with their independence.
It is an untrue assumption that all older people are dependent, frail, and in need of protection. It is equally untrue to assume that all older people are affluent and capable. Laws and policies need to be based on evidence, says the Law Commission of Ontario, not on assumptions.
The following are some of the obstacles facing older people:
1. The length of time it takes to get legal redress. For an older person, his or her legal rights may seem meaningless if they may not be alive to see the result.
2. Many older people have a lesser awareness of their legal rights. Information about legal rights is often provided on the internet. The Special Senate Committee on Aging says that this assumes people’s ability to access the internet. Older women, in particular, are less likely to have access to the internet.
3. Economic disadvantage. Most older people are not employed and rely on fixed incomes. They may not have the financial ability to participate in a lawsuit.
4. Cognitive deficits that prevent them from accessing justice.
Changes to the law need to address these and other concerns that affect older people.
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