About one in seven indebted Canadians surveyed in a recent poll about their debt levels said they didn't expect to ever be able to completely pay off what they owe.

Older Canadians were much more likely than younger ones to be pessimistic about the outlook of becoming debt-free, according to the findings of a Harris/Decima poll commissioned by CIBC.

The poll found that among seniors 65 and over who are now in debt, 21 per cent said they would likely never be debt-free. That's triple the rate among the 18-to-34 set who thought that.

When the pollsters drilled down to examine the attitudes of those with debt, they found that a significant minority — 12 per cent of them — said they are comfortable carrying the debt and don't intend to pay it off.

But those in the "I'll-never-pay-it-off" group were much more likely to say they won't pay off their debts because they can't —  either because they're already too far in debt or because the cost of living is simply too high to allow them to make progress in reducing what they owe.

Indebted Canadians in Atlantic Canada and British Columbia were the most likely (18 per cent) to say that they would never get out of debt, while borrowers in Alberta were the least likely (nine per cent).

Statistics Canada says it's found that about one-third of retirees have debt. Among those 55 and over who are not yet retired, two-thirds are in debt. While half of retirees with debt owed less than $25,000, about one-sixth of them said they're in hock to the tune of more than $100,000.

The Bank of Canada and many financial advisers have warned that when interest rates rise from their current rock-bottom levels, many Canadians will find it increasingly difficult to keep up with loan and mortgage payments. 

The CIBC telephone poll was conducted by Harris/Decima between March 28 and April 7. It surveyed 2,002 Canadians. The results are considered accurate to within 2.2 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.