A closer look at inequality and poverty among seniors

Poverty and economic insecurity among BC seniors is growing.

Contrary to stories that pit generations against one another—with seniors described as a homogenous group of well-off retirees—our latest study finds large income and wealth inequalities between seniors, and shows that BC must develop more effective ways to support vulnerable members of our community no matter their age. 

The seniors’ poverty rate in BC was 12.7% in 2014 (the most recent year data is available), up from a low of 2.2% in 1996—and many more seniors have incomes just above the poverty line.

Seniors living alone are at most risk of economic insecurity—particularly single senior women, as gender inequality in the job market has translated into unequal pension income and private retirement income. 

As our study shows, economic insecurity affects seniors in many ways. It creates housing insecurity, limits access to home and community care, makes prescription medication much less affordable, and leads to poor nutrition and unmet health care needs.

This is demonstrated in a photo essay published alongside the study, which describes the lived experiences of three senior women living in economic insecurity in BC. The images and stories of these women paint a sobering picture of what life is like when the hardships of a low income are combined with the many overlapping challenges of aging—chronic disease, reduced mobility, declining health and the loss of spousal and community support. 

The full report and complete list of recommendations can be found at: policyalternatives.ca/SeniorsInequality 

The photo essay can be found at: policynote.ca/seniors-stories

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