A new study from the University of Moncton shows that poverty among New Brunswick seniors has increased over the last 10 years.
“We have not improved the poverty situation of our seniors in the last 10 years. We have seen an increase instead when we look at the statistics,” said Suzanne Dupuis-Blanchard, director of the Centre for Research on Aging at the University of Moncton.
In 2015, 20.2 per cent of New Brunswick seniors were living in poverty compared to 17 per cent in 2005. According to the study, there has been an increase of about 27,000 seniors living in poverty since 2005.
Dupuis-Blanchard says the study provides senior-focused numbers that haven’t been available in the past.
“It does confirm a few things that we’ve observed in the past, but we just didn’t have the numbers,” she said.
“We have Statistics Canada that has a lot of statistics that they provide us, but nobody really compiled all that information to really focus only on seniors, and that was our goal.”
According to the study, 19.9 per cent of people in New Brunswick are over 65, which ties with Nova Scotia for the highest number of seniors in the country. The national average is 16.5 per cent.
The study also shows that poverty rates are worse among francophone seniors in the province.
“The francophone population over 65 is poorer, if we can put it that way, than the English counterpart, and we can certainly link that to levels of education and different types of jobs,” she said.
Linda Nickerson of the Saint John Seniors Resource Centre says the lack of subsidized housing in the city means seniors often don’t have the resources for nutritional food, which can lead to additional health problems that, in turn, lead to increased cost of living.
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“The list is long for subsidized housing. For those seniors that are not fortunate enough to have subsidized housing, it means that they pay very much more — a half or even more of their income on housing,” she said.
“If you’re paying so much on housing, you don’t have a great deal for food, and that means often times you are eating the wrong foods because it’s cheaper.”
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Jean-Claude Basque, co-ordinator for the New Brunswick Common Front for Social Justice, says the high rates of poverty are due to the nature of work that seniors in the province have performed.
“A lot of seniors have worked in small jobs. A number of them have worked in an industry that is seasonal so they’re not receiving a pension plan,” he said, adding that not all 65-year-olds are included in the Canadian Pension Plan.
Basque believes there needs to be an increase in services along with tax relief for aging New Brunswickers in order to buck the trend.
“I think the other part, as well, is the lowering of the income tax for seniors and also the property tax. There should be a lot more help in that area. I think there are a number of actions that can be done by government, be it at the federal level or the provincial level.”
Basque says that his organization plans to push the provincial government for more support for seniors.
“Part of the reason for doing the study is to get some data, and we’re certainly going to talk to the minister,” he said.
“We’re going to also talk this afternoon about what are the concrete proposals we can give to the government for the next provincial budget because that’s where some of the changes could be made that could impact seniors’ lives.”