A B.C. senior took to the streets of downtown Vernon on Thursday to highlight poverty among older adults.
Carole Fawcett says government support for seniors is not enough to get by amid the rapidly-escalating cost of living.
“A lot of seniors are having great difficulty surviving on their Canadian pensions in this economy,” Fawcett said.
“It’s not fun. You worry if something is going to happen.”
Now she’s trying to raise awareness about the growing number of pensioners living below the poverty line.
She told Global News she’s heard countless heartbreaking stories from people with older family members struggling to make ends meet.
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“One of them said they watched their 84-year-old aunt’s descent into poverty following her retirement she worked her whole life … and she recently required a hearing aid and couldn’t afford it, another one said their 81-year-old mother still works to earn extra money because she just doesn’t have enough money to survive on,” she said.
The amount seniors receive from the Canada Pension Plan depends on how long they’ve worked and how much they’ve earned.
Old Age Security maxes out at $707 a month and peaks at $778 for those 75 and older with lower incomes.
Guaranteed income supplement tops out at $1,057. B.C. also provides a $99-per-month BC Seniors Supplement to the province’s lowest-income seniors.
According to B.C.’s Office of the Seniors Advocate, the median income for B.C. seniors was $30,750 per year as of 2019. A recent study commissioned by the United Way found 15.2 per cent of B.C. seniors qualify as low income, and that nearly a quarter of B.C. seniors had after-tax incomes of below $21,800.
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B.C.’s seniors’ advocate says seniors who can often find themselves homeless as rent has surged around them. She is urging government to update the rent subsidy it pays for low-income seniors.
“The income of a senior who is trying to rent is about 60 per cent lower than the working age population who is trying to rent. So it’s important to understand the severity of the situation in terms of the rent they have to pay and the income they have,” Isobel Mackenzie told Global News.
She added that the wait list for subsidized housing for seniors currently sits at about three years.
In a statement, Finance Minister Katrine Conroy acknowledged seniors on fixed incomes are facing an “especially hard time” amid high inflation.
“We are committed to helping everyone in our province, especially seniors – with new investments to increase food security and help people access affordable food and increasing access to respite care so that more seniors can live independently in their homes,” Conroy said.
She said seniors would benefit from a new means-tested renters’ tax credit set to launch next spring, along with an increase in beds in long-term care facilities.
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