What’s the cost of living impact on seniors?
Hannah Bell, MLA Charlottetown-Brighton
Official Opposition Green Caucus Critic for Finance
Originally appearing in The Guardian, August 11, 2022
We’ve been hearing about the rapid increase in inflation (the average change in the cost of goods and services) along with increases in costs for essentials like home heating fuel, gas and food. In fact, PEI had the highest rate of inflation in the entire country at 10.9% last month, and it is not expected to come back down for many months. In real life, this means that you have less money left in your pocket; less income to spend on things you need. This is the cost of living – and for many, it’s a crisis.
Many seniors over 65 are reliant on pensions that do not necessarily rise in line with inflation and price increases. As such, a large proportion of older people are being hit particularly badly with the effects of the cost of living crisis. It’s even harder for those seniors who are living below the poverty line. This includes many single seniors; particularly women who do not have a private pension or CPP. Despite recent increases, the monthly income for a single senior who receives Old Age Security (OAS) and Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS) is still only $1663 ($1729.50 if you’re over 75). This is less than $20,000 a year.
Seniors are spending a growing portion of their fixed income on housing, heating, and food costs. They are having to make difficult decisions as costs continue to increase with no sign of slowdown in sight. Unlike others who may be able to work and earn more to supplement their incomes, many seniors just don’t have that option. This means cutting back on non-essentials like leisure, socializing, and travel. For too many, it even means reducing heating and eating less.
Many of the seniors I talk to have shared how they feel forgotten. After a lifetime of work and community service, they feel they are treated like second class citizens, like a burden on society rather than the gift that they really are. Can you imagine how it must feel to go to the food bank for the first time when you are in your seventies, after being self-sufficient your whole life? This is not the retirement they expected or deserve. Seniors are not an entirely different species – they are us, when we are older. How would you want to be treated as you age?
Seniors who are struggling with the cost of living crisis need help financially and a one time $100 gift card isn’t going to cut it. They need assistance and support that is provided with dignity and compassion. Help that is easy to access and that meets their actual needs—heating and electricity costs, quality food, transportation, medical supplies, and social activities. Both the federal and provincial governments can and should make increased financial support for seniors on low fixed incomes a priority. They need to do it now.