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Dignity, independence,participation, fairness & security

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In the course of consultation, almost every individual and group highlighted the same central principles as requiring special consideration. These same principles have been identified in the work of national and international bodies. In particular, Canada’s National Framework on Aging[1], developed by the Federal, Provincial (with the exception of Quebec) and Territorial Ministers Responsible for Seniors to assist them in responding to the needs of a maturing Canadian population, recognizes the following five principles as most important:

“Much of human dignity is experienced and expressed through work. As social creatures we need to feel valued and empowered, feelings that come from knowing we are contributing to our social fabric...a significant number of people...experience feelings of uselessness and devalued self-worth upon retiring.” (Dee Stewart)

Dignity: Being treated with respect, regardless of the situation, and having a sense of self-esteem e.g., having a sense of self-worth; being accepted as one is, regardless of age, health status, etc.; being appreciated for life accomplishments; being respected for continuing role and contributions to family, friends, community and society; being treated as a worthy human being and a full member of society.

Independence: Being in control of one's life, being able to do as much for oneself as possible and making one's own choices e.g., decisions on daily matters; being responsible, to the extent possible and practical, for things that affect one; having freedom to make decisions about how one will live one's life; enjoying access to a support system that enables freedom of choice and self-determination.

“Affordable, accessible, flexible transportation is essential so clients can attend medical appointments in a comfortable and timely manner, achieve basic tasks, such as obtaining groceries, banking, other errands and decrease isolation by going on outings and seeing family and friends.” (KFL&A Community Care Access Centre)

Fairness: Having seniors’ real needs, in all their diversity, considered equally to those of other Canadians e.g., having equitable access (socially, economically, politically) to available resources and services; not being discriminated against on the basis of age; and being treated and dealt with in a way that maximizes the inclusion of seniors.

“We want not just to have things done to and for us, but to be full participants in the building and maintenance of a just and civil society.”
(Canadian Pensioners Concerned)

Participation: Getting involved, staying active and taking part in the community, being consulted and having one's views considered by government - e.g., being active in all facets of life (socially, economically, politically); having a meaningful role in daily affairs; enjoying what life has to offer; participating in available programs and services; and being involved and engaged in activities of daily living (decisions/initiatives in all spheres, not just those specifically oriented to seniors).

Security: Having adequate income as one ages and having access to a safe and supportive living environment e.g., financial security to meet daily needs; physical security (including living conditions, sense of protection from crime, etc.); access to family and friends; sense of close personal and social bonds; and support.

These principles mirror the words of the Preamble to the Code and reflect the intent of its human rights protections. They are therefore very relevant to, and will be used in, the Commission’s upcoming policy work on aging. In addition, these principles are useful beyond the confines of the Commission’s policy work. They can be applied broadly by government, the private and non-profit sectors and others in the development, analysis and evaluation of any new or existing policy or program that may affect older persons. The National Framework on Aging is a critical tool in this process. Recognizing the importance of such an analysis and this very important policy tool, the Commission recommends:

Recommendations for Government & Community Action

  1. THAT the five principles contained in the National Framework on Aging be integrated into policies and programs of public and private sector organizations.

[1] Canada’s National Framework on Aging is available from Health Canada, Health Promotion and Programs Branch, Division of Aging and Seniors and online: Health Canada <>.

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