Backgrounder: Increased costs for older seniors


Seniors face increased vulnerability as they age: they tend to have lower incomes, experience higher poverty rates, and often face health‑related expenses because of the onset of illness or disability. They are also more likely to face the possibility of outliving their life savings and are more at risk of widowhood. Research shows that the loss of a spouse or partner can lead to a significant decline in the standard of living of seniors, particularly among women.

Among seniors aged 75 and over:

Few work, and those who do have a median annual employment income of only $720.

  • In 2018, the proportion of seniors with employment income was substantially lower among those aged 75 and over (15.4%) compared to those aged 65–74 (34.2%).
  • Among those who worked, median annual employment income was also much lower for the oldest seniors ($720 vs. $10,000).

Close to half have a disability, of whom over half have severe disabilities (56%).

  • In 2017, close to half (47%) of seniors aged 75 and over had a disability, compared to one third (32%) of those aged 65–74.
  • Seniors aged 75 and over were also more likely than younger seniors to have a severe disability (27% vs. 15%).

The majority are women.

  • In 2020, among OAS pensioners aged 75 and over, 57% are women—compared to 52% among those aged 65–74.

Four in ten are widowed.

  • In 2016, the proportion of seniors who were widowed and had not remarried was more than three times higher among seniors aged 75 and over compared to seniors aged 65–74 (39% vs. 11%).

Six in ten have incomes below $30,000.

  • In 2018, among OAS pensioners aged 75 and over, 59% had incomes below $30,000—compared to 52% of those aged 65–74.

Four in ten receive the GIS.

  • In 2020, 39% of OAS pensioners aged 75 and over received the GIS, compared to 29% of those aged 65–74.

They face rising health costs—costs that are two-thirds higher for those aged 80 and over

  • In 2017, among seniors living alone, average annual health expenditures for those aged 75–79 ($1,356) were close to $300 higher relative to those aged 65–74 ($1,083). For those aged 80 and over, these expenditures ($1,807) were over $700 higher relative to the youngest seniors.

NOTE: The OAS administrative data, the projections from the Office of the Chief Actuary and the 2018 Canadian Income Survey, the 2016 Census, the 2017 Canadian Survey on Disability and the 2017 Survey of Household Spending have all been used to support the comparison above between seniors aged 75 and over and younger seniors aged 65 to 74.

Page details

Date modified: