According to the B.C. Seniors’ Poverty Report Card released in June 2018, British Columbia has the highest rate of seniors who live in poverty in Canada. Between 2000 and 2015 the number of impoverished seniors in B.C. doubled, and the figure continues to grow.

The housing market in British Columbia, especially that of Greater Vancouver, is notoriously expensive and is a leading factor when it comes to the elderly living below the poverty line. As pensions are often fixed, they do not fluctuate with the increased cost of living. A large portion of seniors’ pensions is now allocated to housing – solely, towards having a roof overhead.

Along with increased housing costs, prices of everyday goods and services are gradually increasing, forcing seniors to retire later than the expected age range of 55 to 65. Many are working until 70 or later to support themselves. Being overworked and underpaid can lead to extreme physical and emotional vulnerability. For instance, one woman, aged 72, living below the poverty line in BC has to make daily choices “between rising rent, transportation to medical appointments, and home care.”

The hardship of continuing work and searching for affordable housing can often take a toll on mental health. Dealing with this constant instability can lead to suicide or families moving their elderly relatives into care homes before necessary.

In order to curb the escalating issues surrounding seniors quality of life, organizations like United Way Lower Mainland are collaborating with unions, governments, and social services agencies to a collective impact. The “From Poverty to Possibility” approach can help empower the community to break the cycle of poverty. United Way Lower Mainland accepts support by volunteering your time and efforts to the community kitchens and gardens, and donations.

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