Choosing between paying for medication or putting food on the table is something that many seniors in Nanaimo are still having to make, according to a local activist.
June Ross, a seniors’ advocate in Nanaimo, said there are plenty of retirees in the Harbour City who are struggling financially and are being forced to make difficult choices, such as cutting back on medication expenses in order to pay rent or hydro.
The most recent numbers on seniors’ income across Canada and in B.C. indicate that seniors in the province have seen their income decline, according to Statistics Canada data which only goes up to 2014.
The data shows that the average after-tax senior family income in B.C. declined from $69,400 in 2013 to $63,300 in 2014, while the median after-tax income among senior families in B.C. was down 5.65 per cent from the previous year.
When it came to B.C. single seniors not in an economic family, Statistics Canada indicates that their average after-tax income decreased to $32,400 – a nearly nine-per cent drop from 2013. The median after-tax income for single seniors was $26,700 in 2014, a decline of 6.3 per cent from the previous year.
Conversely, the average after-tax income for single male seniors not in an economic family actually increased in 2014 by $300. The situation was the opposite for single female seniors, whose average after-tax income went from $35,300 in 2013 to just $30,400 in 2014 – a decrease of 14 per cent.
Meanwhile, the Canadian average after-tax income among senior families was $66,000 in 2014, an increase of 3.45 per cent over the previous year. The nationwide median after-tax income for senior families also increased in 2014, up 1.8 per cent from the previous year.
The national average after-tax income for single seniors who were not in an economic family declined by $300 in 2014, while the median average after-tax income for single seniors rose by $300.
Ross believes the situation for many seniors in Nanaimo is much worse than what the Statistic Canada numbers show. She said she knows more and more retirees who have an income of less than $1,500 a month.
“I think that there is more of them in Nanaimo to start with, that are living on far less than the amounts that are given,” she said. “There are probably dozens and dozens and dozens of seniors in Nanaimo that are living on $1,200 or $1,300 a month, which then means making choices.”
There are a range of factors as to why seniors end up in low-income situations, according to Ross, who said the problem can often go noticed by family members, who are either so busy with their own lives or struggling to make ends meet themselves.
Ross said all levels of government need to do more for seniors and more voices speaking out for seniors are needed.