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/