Low Income Seniors

In working with seniors for the past 13 years, I have learned a few things.
Many seniors, due to no fault of their own, have incomes based totally on their Old Age Pension, the supplement, Survivors benefits and their Canada Pension, giving them an income of about $1400.00 per month. Some never had a job that resulted in superannuation pension or benefits. Not everyone was lucky enough to have high paying jobs and were never able to afford to buy a house, or lost it due to other debts. Some were involved in small businesses that went under taking all their savings. Some had family members with huge medical bills that bankrupt them. Some had spouses who, when deciding on taking pensions, chose the one giving them the most money initially, being based on their life only. When they passed, their spouse gets nothing! Some are separated due to abandonment or abuse and forced to sign documents giving them nothing, and, being unable to afford good legal advice suffer the consequences.
Pensioners were given the ‘huge’ raise in 2014, only to have it clawed back, leaving them at a net loss. How many working people would tolerate that happening to their salaries?
Most of the seniors I know simply adjust their lifestyle and carry on. Vehicle insurance and maintenance is over $200.00 a month average, so get rid of the car. Without a vehicle, transportation becomes dependent on transit schedules and routes and the weather. Taxi to downtown is $25.00…each way.., so that is out. Dining out is costly, with most meals costing a week’s grocery budget. If they do go out, they must take advantage of seniors discount days. Live theater tickets again cost 2 week’s grocery budget, so no live entertainment. New clothes? That is why we have Thrift stores. Medication? Can’t afford that, or must rely on their children to help. Ambulance bill to the hospital, $85.00. Scrimp for 3 months to pay it. And I don’t hear them complaining, ever. These are the people who worked hard, paid their dues, contributed, made this country what it is today, not for the politicians or the greedy, but for everyone to enjoy. And they still contribute by volunteering, assisting each other and generally just helping out when they can and as they are able.
No one planned to live out their retirement years like this. No one thinks this can happen to them. But it happens. Government cuts to healthcare and other things impact the low income people the most. We need to figure out ways to change/combat/challenge the issues so the rest of us do not end up in like situations, because we could!

Wealthy Seniors?

Sunrise over the Ocean

Seniors are Wealthy…..if you believe that, then read the following:

It is an older article posted on the website of the Office of the Seniors Advocate (BC)   based on research and information gathered by that office, however it is as valid today as it was then. The numbers are staggering. For over 20 years, our Society has been assisting the low income seniors by providing affordable housing.

However, our aging infrastructure is starting to get costly doing necessary repairs to keep it warm, dry and safe. Our income, like Seniors, has very little flexibility. If we raise rents, we price Seniors out of affordable housing. An alternative is to seek donations. There is more information on this on our website.



Stereotyping seniors as wealthy does not reflect the reality for many B.C. seniors

By Isobel Mackenzie

Seniors Advocate

October 10, 2014

VICTORIA – Ageism can take many forms, however like any discrimination it has, at its core, a desire to stereotype an entire group of people. On Oct. 1, 2014, we celebrated the United Nations International Day of the Older Person. This year’s theme “Leaving No One Behind: Promoting a Society for All” should be a reminder to practice inclusion by resisting the temptation to stereotype anyone, including seniors.

To this end, there has been much discussion in the media recently about the increased and relative affluence of seniors. Some, such as Maclean’s Magazine have baited divisiveness with the headline “Old. Rich. Spoiled”. Throughout the various articles and headlines of late, I have struggled to find the voice of actual seniors reflected. What I have found instead is incomplete information that has resulted in a mis-representation of the economic plight of many seniors.

Statistics Canada pegs the 2011 median income for those over 65 at $23,700. This means that 50% of seniors in Canada are living on less than $23,700 per year, with the majority living alone. Compare this to the median income for 35-44 year olds at $43,300 with the overwhelming majority living in a two-person household sharing costs that are often borne by the single senior.

Here in British Columbia alone, we have over 52,000 seniors who are living on $16,300 per year or less. While it is true that some low-income seniors live in a home with no mortgage, they still face property tax, insurance and maintenance and repair costs all on a fixed income that is often not guaranteed to keep pace with inflation. Their equity in some cases has either been borrowed against, or is an insurance policy for future care costs. Additionally, let’s not forget the 20% of senior households that are rented and face annual increases against an often stagnant income.

Seniors face health-care costs related to drugs, mobility aids, dental care, eyeglasses and hearing aids with no workplace benefit plans to defray costs. Householders today are enjoying record low interest rates. While this is a boon for some homeowners, it can be a hardship for the overwhelming majority of seniors who do not receive a defined benefit pension plan and must produce an adequate retirement income from savings and investments. It is important to remember that, whatever wealth seniors might have (outside of their primary residence) they are usually required to produce an income from it, unlike people who receive their income from employment and can allow their wealth to compound.

The issue of the low income and poverty of some seniors is only one part of the picture. Seniors also make significant contributions to our communities and our health-care system. We know that the greatest amount of volunteering is done by seniors. More significantly perhaps is the millions of hours of care that is provided every year in this country by seniors to their spouses, and in some cases, their parents. If seniors didn’t step up each and every day to the needs of their community, the cost to all levels of government would be staggering. The contribution of unpaid caregivers over 65, alone is an estimated four billion dollar savings to the Canadian health care system.

In addition to their contributions of unpaid labour, seniors also contribute to the costs of their care. In B.C., seniors pay: 80% of their income toward the cost of residential care to a maximum of $3092.66; 70% of their income toward the cost of government subsidized assisted living with a maximum that varies according to local market conditions; and they co-pay the costs of their home support on a sliding scale based on income. While it may be fair to question whether a minority of higher income seniors should benefit from the caps, it is also very evident that the majority of seniors are surrendering significant amounts of their income to subsidize their  care needs.

The seniors of today, like the seniors of tomorrow, are unique individuals. Some have money, some do not. Some have good health, some do not. Some contribute to their community, others less so. Some need our help, others do not. What is most important is that we value the uniqueness of seniors just as we do those who are not yet 65 and in so doing, ensure we leave no one behind and create a society for all.

Isobel Mackenzie was appointed as Seniors Advocate for B.C. in March 2014. Prior to this role, Isobel spent two decades working with seniors in home care, licensed dementia care, assisted living and volunteer and community services. Isobel also served with the Canadian Home Care Association, BC Care Providers and the Medical Services Commission of BC.

Media Contact: Margaret Case Manager, Communications, Outreach and Stakeholder Relations

Office of the Seniors Advocate



You can access this report and much more from the link https://www.seniorsadvocatebc.ca/

Elder Abuse

Elder Abuse, Information for Caregivers:
When one considers the following, they must also consider the mental state of the person being observed ie look at the whole picture. Are these symptoms of abuse, or are some the symptoms those of advancing dementia? If you are unsure, contact your local Health Authority. They are trained and will assist in such matters.
Elder abuse refers to any of several forms of maltreatment of an older person by a caregiver, family member, spouse, or friend.
Categories of elder abuse
There are three separate categories of elder abuse:
• Domestic elder abuse usually takes place in the older adult’s home or in the home of the caregiver. The abuser is often a relative, close friend, or paid companion.
• Institutional abuse refers to abuse that takes place in a residential home (such as a nursing home), foster home, or assisted-living facility. The abuser has a financial or contractual obligation to care for the older adult.
• Self-neglect is behavior of an older adult that threatens his or her own health or safety. Self-neglect is present when an older adult refuses or fails to provide himself or herself with adequate food, water, clothing, shelter, personal hygiene, medicine, and safety precautions.
Acts of elder abuse
Elder abuse can include:
• Acts of violence, such as hitting, beating, pushing, shoving, shaking, slapping, kicking, pinching, choking, or burning. The inappropriate use of medicines or physical restraints, force-feeding, and physical punishment of any kind also are examples of physical abuse.
• Forced sexual contact or sexual contact with any person incapable of giving consent. It includes unwanted touching and all types of sexual assault or battery, such as rape, sodomy, forced nudity, and sexually explicit photography.
• Emotional or psychological abuse, such as name-calling, insults, threats, intimidation, humiliation, and harassment. Treating an older person like a baby, giving an older person the “silent treatment,” and isolating him or her from family, friends, or regular activities are examples of emotional or psychological abuse.
• Neglect, such as failing to provide an older person with food, clothing, personal shelter, or other essentials, such as medical care or medicines. Neglect can also include failing to pay nursing home or assisted-living facility costs for an older person if you have a legal responsibility to do so.
• Abandonment or desertion of an older person by a person who has the physical or legal responsibility for providing care.
• Illegal or improper use of an older person’s funds, property, or assets. This includes forging an older person’s signature, stealing money or possessions, or tricking an older person into signing documents that transfer funds, property, or assets.
Risk factors for elder abuse
Abuse of elders is a complex problem with many contributing factors. Risk factors include:
• Domestic violence carried over into the elder years. A substantial number of elder abuse cases are abuse by a spouse.
• Personal problems of caregivers. People who abuse older adults (particularly their adult children) are often dependent on the older person for financial help and other support. This is often due to personal problems such as mental illness or other dysfunctional personality traits. The risk of elder abuse seems highest when these adult children live with the older person.
• Social isolation. Caregivers and family members who live with an older person have the opportunity to abuse and often attempt to isolate the older person from others to prevent the abuse from being discovered.
Signs of elder abuse
Signs and symptoms of elder abuse vary widely depending on the type of abuse.
• Signs that an older person is the victim of acts of violence may include:
o Bruises, black eyes, welts, lacerations, rope marks, cuts, punctures, or untreated injuries in various stages of healing.
o Broken bones, including the skull.
o Sprains, dislocations, or internal injuries.
o Broken eyeglasses or dentures.
o Signs of being restrained.
o Laboratory reports of overdose or under-use of medicines.
o Reports from the older adult of being physically mistreated.
o An older person’s sudden change in behavior.
o A caregiver’s refusal to allow visitors to see an older person alone.
• Symptoms of possible sexual abuse include bruises around the breasts or genital area, unexplained venereal disease or genital infections, unexplained vaginal or anal bleeding, underclothing that is torn or stained, and reports from the older person of being sexually assaulted.
• Emotional or psychological abuse is possible if the older person appears emotionally upset or agitated; acts withdrawn or is non-communicative, non-responsive, or paranoid; exhibits unusual behavior including sucking, biting, and rocking; or if he or she reports being verbally or emotionally mistreated.
• Signs of neglect may include dehydration, malnutrition, untreated health problems, pressure ulcers, poor personal hygiene, hazardous or unsanitary living conditions, and reports from the older person of being mistreated.
• Abandonment includes the desertion of an older person at a hospital, nursing facility, shopping center, or other public location.
• Signs of financial exploitation include sudden changes in a bank account or banking practice, such as unexplained withdrawals of large amounts of money; additional names on an older person’s bank card; abrupt changes in a will or other financial document; disappearance of funds or valuable possessions; unpaid bills or substandard care despite the availability of funds; evidence of the older person’s signature being forged; the sudden appearance of previously uninvolved relatives; payment for unnecessary services; and reports from the older person of financial exploitation.
Help for elder abuse
If you are worried that someone you know might be a victim of elder abuse, talk to your doctor about what to look for, what the risks are, and what help is available.
To report elder abuse or to get help, contact your provincial health authority. Each province has resources to help.
If the abuse involves acts of violence, sexual or any other that is criminal in nature, report it to your local police.

Excerpts from Healthlinkbc. http://www.healthlinkbc.ca/