Relief of the Aged

Policy Statement

Reference number

Effective date
July 6, 1990


This policy statement outlines the Directorate's policy on the registration of applicant organizations that are established for the relief of the aged.


1. The courts recognize that the relief of the aged is sufficient by itself to be considered charitable.

2. The Directorate considers as charitable applicant organizations that are established to relieve a need attributable to old age, including catering to persons both over and under 65 years of age who require financial relief and/or relief associated with the condition of being aged.

3. Organizations that focus on people affiliated to a particular sexual minority are acceptable, as long as the facilities are theoretically open to the community at large. A facility may serve people who have a natural affinity and who share similar problems, for example, sexual orientation, without excluding anyone, or housing for the elderly based on ethnicity or cultural affinity.

4. In the past, the standard for charitable relief was set at age 65 when beneficiaries could be presumed to be in need because of old age. However, an arbitrary 65-and-over age restriction is not the most effective means of measurement. Therefore, organizations established for relief of the aged must rather demonstrate that they are relieving a need attributable to old age. This includes organizations catering to persons both over and under 65 years of age.

5. There have been arguments in support of both a higher and lower minimum age for charitable assistance to the elderly. On the one hand, much improved medical care and technology, higher living standards, or better nutrition, might support the adoption of a higher minimum age. On the other hand, the trend toward lower retirement age means that a traditional measure of old age or retirement has been lowered. Some problems that are associated with retirement, such as loneliness and isolation, appear at an earlier age.


6. This policy applies to applicant organizations and registered charities that clearly state in their governing documents that they intend to relieve a condition associated with old age and to ease the effects of aging by providing assistance and benefits for the elderly. They must also establish the criteria to be used in selecting the elderly in need of relief.

7. Activities directed toward the alleviation of loneliness and isolation, such as social clubs are considered charitable. Aged persons need social activities during that particular time of life when they have excess time on their hands, no companionship, no money, and very special needs considering the limited activities their aging bodies permit. If not for the fact that the recipients are aged, social clubs would not be considered charitable.

8. The word relief is not synonymous with benefit. It implies that the beneficiaries have a need attributable to the condition of being aged, and that the condition requires alleviating. The particular needs attributable to old age may co-exist with other charitable needs, for example, the aged may also be infirm1, in which case the organization could qualify for registration as a charity for the promotion of health.

Housing for senior citizens

9. Organizations that are established to provide low cost housing for the elderly may qualify for registration as a charity, without the requirement that the beneficiaries be poor, as long as the organization intends to provide some measure of relief from the infirmities of old age. It would be inappropriate to apply this reasoning where accommodation is obtained by way of bargain and not bounty, as in the case of a co-operative or other organization established to provide housing for its members.

10. If an organization's purpose is to provide low cost housing for the aged, it is not a requirement that both spouses occupying a unit be elderly.

11. The organization must indicate the criteria to be used in selecting recipients for any housing unit. Relief is inherent in the case of a nursing home or other domiciliary care facility but may not be as evident for apartment projects. Where residents are provided with rooms as opposed to independent units and receive some care (for example, meals), the organization would likely be recognized as established for relieving some need attributable to old age. Conversely, in cases where the organization has simply provided independent residential units without meals or housekeeping assistance, these would be less likely to meet the requirements for registration.

12. In the case of apartment projects, the provision of wheelchair ramps, medical treatment facilities, a fellowship room and monitoring services would normally be indications of a charitable intent, as would statements to the effect that the organization hopes to help the elderly remain independent without the burdens of caring for a house or its grounds.

Disqualifying circumstances

13. The obvious and controlling purpose of an organization must be determined in all circumstances. If an organization merely administers a rental program, prepares the necessary financial reports and screens the applicants, but does not dispense medical services or provide meals for the residents, it is likely not carrying on a charitable activity.

14. An organization must provide sufficient information about how it intends to operate to ensure that housing will be provided solely for relief of the aged. Where the tenants of a housing project are mixed between those in need of charitable relief and those not in need, for example, arrangements with Central Housing and Mortgage Corporation programs, registration as a charity will be denied on the grounds that the organization's operations are not exclusively charitable2.

15. If an organization is constituted to provide rental accommodation to the elderly and the only requirement to be met by prospective tenants is that they be over 60 years of age, registration will be denied because no charitable relief is demonstrated in that circumstance.


Footnote 1

Infirm means not firm or sound physically; weak, especially from age; feeble; weak of mind.

Footnote 2

Income Tax Act, paras. 149.1(1)(a) and (b).

Date modified: