Report of the National Seniors Council on Low Income Among Seniors


The National Seniors Council is pleased that the federal government recognizes low income among seniors as an important issue. The Council is particularly encouraged by recent government action, including the increase to the Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS) and the GIS earnings exemption, the Age Credit and the Pension Income Amount. While these measures will benefit many seniors with low or modest incomes, some seniors still need further support.

The report is divided into three parts and presents:

  1. an overview of the financial situation of seniors, with a focus on low-income seniors;
  2. a synopsis of 11 roundtable discussions held in 2008, organized into five themes, with a focus on key challenges faced by low-income seniors and Council suggestions for federal government action; and
  3. a summary of Council suggestions for federal government action.

Why Low Income Among Seniors is a Priority

Individuals with low incomes may not have enough money for basics. Nutritious food may be unaffordable. These individuals may struggle to pay the rent or mortgage and utilities, or live in homes that need repairs. For many, it is difficult to access necessary services, transportation and non-insured health services and supplies.

But the problem goes deeper still. Lack of money prevents people from participating as full members of communities. Individuals with low incomes are more likely to experience social isolation, loneliness and depression, as well as ill health and a shorter lifespan. Indeed, income has been identified as one of the most important determinants of overall health and well-being.

While the low-income rate among seniors has declined significantly in recent years, some seniors still have incomes below Statistics Canada’s after-tax low income cut-off (LICO).Footnote 1 Many more seniors live on fixed and limited incomes, slightly above the LICO. While these seniors may not be “officially” living in low income, they may be only one major expense or cost-of-living increase away from the threshold. Consequently, they face many of the same challenges.

As the population continues to age, the economic security of seniors will become even more essential in ensuring that seniors are safe, valued and active members of their communities.

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