Seniors living in poverty in Canada

Robert Geddes presents Senator LeBreton with CARP submission

CARP Calls for a Comprehensive, Nation-Wide Anti-Poverty Strategy.

“Income for all seniors must be adequate to meet the real cost of living,” says Susan Eng, CARP’s Vice President of Advocacy. “Health care services must be available – and accessible equitably across the country and age discrimination must be eradicated.”

These were among the recommendations CARP submitted to a session of The National Seniors Council Roundtable, held in Peterborough on March 17. The Roundtable is examining the current situation of low income senior citizens across Canada.

The Honourable Marjory LeBreton, Leader of the Government in the Senate and Secretary of State (Seniors), and members of the National Seniors Council participated in the discussion along with members of seniors organizations and service providers from across Ontario. The meeting focused on challenges that many seniors face, including “seniors’ anxiety about services not being available in the health care system and seniors living in poverty, especially women,” LeBreton told the Peterborough Examiner.

Robert Geddes, chairman of the CARP Peterborough chapter, presented CARP’s recommendations. Also in attendance were Peterborough MP Del Mastro, Art Field, President of the National Pensioners and Seniors Citizens Federation and Shirley Shaw, executive director of the Activity Haven Senior Centre.

CARP recommends the establishment of a Comprehensive, Nation-Wide Anti Poverty Strategy

Poverty among seniors particularly affects minorities and women. In 2000, based on the Census, 65 per cent of single visible minority seniors were considered low income, compared to 39 per cent of single seniors who were not of a visible minority. Among couples, the low income rate was 15.7 per cent for visible minorities and only 5.6 per cent for the rest.

Another significant statistic is that the rate of poverty among female seniors is double the rate of male poverty.

In response to these statistics, CARP recommends the creation of a National Anti-Poverty Strategy that addresses the particular needs and expectations of seniors but include differentiation to target the particular circumstance of groups which face distinct challenges based upon race, gender and/or urbanization:

Health – health care services must be available and accessible to all seniors across the country.

A National Pharmacare Program must be established in order to lower costs of medication and to equalize the availability of prescription drugs for seniors across the country.

The Ontario Budget recently announced the funding of dental care for low income Ontarians. CARP would recommend that a national program be established.

Finances – Income for all senior citizens must be adequate to meet the real cost of living.

– In order to ensure this happens, the LICO (Low Income Cut-Off) must be raised to accurately reflect the cost of living

– The base amount of GIS (Guaranteed Income Supplement) payments must also be increased to meet the readjusted LICO and therefore the real cost of living.

– All pensioners must be reimbursed the full amount that was caused by the Statistics Canada’s shortfall and admitted underestimation of the CPI (Consumer Price Index) between 2001 and 2006.