With inflation at a nearly 40-year high, Canadians are feeling the financial strain. In a six-part series this summer, The Canadian Press talks to people at different stages of life to see where they’re most impacted. This final story in the series describes how rising inflation is affecting older adults.
Azim Jeraj canceled his gym membership earlier this year.
The 69-year-old resident of Sherwood Park, Alta. says he can no longer justify the monthly fees amid rising costs for groceries, utilities and prescription drugs.
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“Instead, I joined a senior cycling group. I ride my bike with them twice a week and it doesn’t cost money,” says Jeraj. “You find things like that to do. You’re always looking for things that don’t cost a lot of money.”
Like any other age group right now, Canadian seniors are being forced to make tough decisions and sacrifice frills and nice touches in the face of nearly 40 years of high inflation rates.
But older adults also face a unique challenge that is less talked about – increasing social isolation, which experts say often occurs as a result of high inflation.
Seniors severely isolated in care homes
According to Statistics Canada, 27.9 percent of Canadian seniors lived alone in 2017-18, compared to 14 percent of the general population.
Doctors know that maintaining relationships and social activity play important roles in the mental and physical health of this age group. Social isolation in the elderly has been associated with increased emotional distress and the prevalence of depression, increased number of falls and use of health and support services, and even premature death.
But getting around costs money, whether it’s just meeting friends for coffee, driving to church, or taking the bus to a fitness class.
“People don’t think that social isolation comes with inflationary costs. Our immediate thought is that people will not be able to buy groceries, afford housing and take their medication,” said Laura Tamblyn Watts, CEO of CanAge, a national advocacy group for seniors. “But you have to be connected somehow, and the connection costs.”
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Many Canadian seniors live on fixed pensions or depend on government benefits like the Canada Pension Plan, which — with its annual inflation adjustment in January — has not kept pace with recent staggering cost-of-living increases.
Older adults are also concerned about their investment portfolios as inflation weighs on the stock market. And for those who have gambled on the equity in their home to fund their retirement, rising interest rates and their impact on the housing market are a real concern.
“A lot of the seniors we see are stuck in this crisis – their investments or pensions haven’t gone up, their benefits may eventually go up, but right now they’re waiting in limbo and the prices of everything have gone up. said Larry Mathieson, executive director of the Kerby Centre, a nonprofit organization that provides programs and services for seniors in Calgary and Medicine Hat. “It’s a huge problem.”
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For Dorothy Bagan, who lives alone in her home in Calgary, the crisis is already being felt. She’s canceled her cell phone and scaled back cable TV and sticks to a carefully curated list when shopping for groceries.
She also does not own a car and although she is an avid user of public transport and a volunteer in the community, her social life has narrowed.
“My circle of friends has narrowed for obvious reasons. I’m 74,” Bagan said. “And the two close friends that I have, well, only one of them still drives, so seeing each other was a challenge.”
In fact, Bagan said she recently made the decision to go back to working part-time — not because of the money, although that’s an added benefit, but because she needs to get out of the house.
“I love engaging with and interacting with people…I love to be on the road and be a part of things,” she said. “I’m still useful; Just because I’m a senior doesn’t mean I can’t contribute.”
Isolation and loneliness for care recipients as social interactions are limited
Social isolation is part of the “downward effect of inflation,” Tamblyn Watts said. If seniors can’t afford internet, they can’t connect with their families via Zoom or FaceTime. If they can’t afford hearing aids or glasses, they have fewer opportunities to interact with the world. And when younger generations are busy putting in extra hours at work to keep up with their own rising cost of living, they are less likely to be able to check on their mother and father or pay a timely visit to to make the grandparents in a nursing home.
“There will be more people living alone at home, unsupported and lonely,” Tamblyn Watts said.
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For his part, Jeraj said he felt lucky. He’s married, still drives, and he and his wife have made a conscious effort to stay active and connected through low-cost activities like long walks and chatting with friends at home.
However, he knows that many of his peers are not so lucky.
“I have relatives who live alone and the cost to them is a big issue. Even mobility because they can’t drive due to their age and health,” Jeraj said.
“Social isolation is a really big deal. It affects them quite a bit mentally.”
© 2022 The Canadian Press
https://globalnews.ca/news/9065438/canada-inflation-seniors-isolation/ Canadian seniors feel increasingly isolated as high inflation takes its toll – National