Organizations launch anti-ageism campaign

What do CARP and the Ontario Human Rights Commission have in common? Both are seriously concerned with the prevalence of ageism and its effects on older adults.

So the advocacy group and the agency responsible for enforcing the Ontario Human Rights Code have joined forces in a public awareness campaign about age discrimination.

Poster campaign
In Ontario, an ad campaign features posters of older people with stickers on their foreheads that read, Best Before—like the date tags on perishable groceries. The poster tagline reads: Nobody has a shelf life. Stop age discrimination now. It’s illegal, plus it’s just plain wrong.

There are different posters for employment, transportation, health care and housing.

The campaign, which began in June, not only combats ageism but also empowers those experiencing this discrimination to recognize what ageism is and how to respond.

The targets are Ontario’s seniors, employers, educators, service providers and the general public. The first phase focuses on employment and transportation issues.

The second phase runs in the fall with an emphasis on health care and housing issu.

Project researched ageism
Ageism and age discrimination have been the focus of a three-year project by the Ontario Human Rights Commission. The Commission conducted research and consultations about the major human rights issues facing older Ontarians.

CARP and more than 100 other organizations and individuals outlined major concerns and offered recommendations on how to address them.

The Commission heard that the current image most people have of older adults does not accurately reflect their skills and abilities or their contributions to Canadian society. The public awareness campaign is meant to counteract negative myths and stereotypes about older persons.

Time for action
In a report titled “Time for Action: Advancing Human Rights for Older Ontarians,” the Commission made a commitment to launch a broad public awareness campaign.

CARP is a key partner in this initiative to help people understand what ageism is and how it limits people’s participation in all aspects of life.

Raising public awareness about ageism in employment, transit, health care and housing is only one strategy against this problem.

Next page: Changing retirement laws

Changing retirement laws
“Time for Action” also identifies recommendations for government and community action.

An example is amending the Human Rights Code to eliminate mandatory retirement at age 65 and to extend protection against age discrimination to workers 65 and over.

However, changing laws and investing in programs relies on the action of government and other decision-makers. 

The Commission has also developed a policy on discrimination against older persons because of age. This looks at discrimination as it relates to present protections in the Human Rights Code.

Older worker myths
The majority of current human rights complaints about age discrimination are in the area of employment, so this policy emphasizes the older worker.

It dispels prevalent myths and stereotypes of workplaces.

It also provides tools to distinguish between age discrimination in matters such as hiring, workplace reorganization and termination from legitimate non-discriminatory decisions. 

Housing issues, rights
The policy on discrimination also explains rights and obligations under the Human Rights Code when it comes to housing issues.

An example would be the legality of housing projects aimed only at older persons or older persons from a particular ethnic or religious community.

There is also a requirement for housing providers to accommodate the special needs of older residents. For example, service providers may prefer not to take on older clients because of a mythical perception that they take up more time.

Designers of transit services may fail to consider the needs of older persons.

CARP, Commission joint action
Public initiatives are important in the fight against ageism and age discrimination.

In order to achieve meaningful results, the Commission and CARP need to renew the call to all levels of government, the private sector, the non-profit sector and those who work directly with older adults to act on the recommendations in the “Time for Action” document.

For further information or for copies of documents, check the Commission’s website 
or call the Commission toll-free at1-800-387-9080 or 1-800-308-5561.

Keith Norton is Chief Commissioner of the Ontario Human Rights Commission.