Canada Post is phasing out door-to-door delivery and will replace the service with community mailboxes that will require people leave their homes to retrieve their letters, which some Montreal seniors say will make life more difficult.
Jean Cousineau, 88, has reduced vision and is concerned about the difficulties he will face walking down the block to pick up his mail, especially on slippery winter sidewalks.
“It's just going to be one more trouble for the old or the aged,” said Cousineau.
“The young people, well, I imagine they will cope easily with that. But with me and the fact I have lost my sight, and the rest of me is not that good, it's going to be difficult.”
Gertrude Brander, 85, lives on her own and says she could handle the new community mailboxes for now, but worries what she would do if she even lost her mobility.
“I’m not very impressed. At the moment I guess I could cope with it, but I don't know for how much longer,” said Brander.
Door-to-door delivery service will be phased out over the next five years and Canada Post is also increasing the cost of sending a regular letter, from 63 cents to 85 cents if bought in a pack.
Canada Post says only one-third of Canadians get their mail delivered right now and it hasn't recorded a profit since 2011.
Last month, the Crown corporation reported a $1 billion pension shortfall and it is now planning to lay off 8,000 employees.
Dany Laplaine has been delivering mail door-to-door for a decade and worries about the residents on his route in Montreal West.
“There are a lot of people with functional limitations. There are people in wheelchairs and there are the elderly — a lot elderly in this area,” said Laplaine.
Pietro Bozzo is the director at Yellow Door, an organization that provides assistance to seniors that are living at home and are in various stages of reduced autonomy.
He says that aside from physical limitations, some seniors rely on the mail as a primary means of communication with their families because they aren't comfortable with many newer technologies.
“There are a lot of things that we take for granted that are second nature to us,” said Bozzo. “Once upon a time, receiving the mail was considered an essential service and I fail to see why that has changed.”
Risk of isolation
Bozzo says for those living alone, isolation can have a negative effect on mental health and even exacerbate dementia.
“If you start limiting that kind of access, you’re looking at institutionalization much earlier,” said Bozzo.
Laplaine says he is also sad about losing the human connection.
“We don't spend hours talking, but the little amount of time I get with them, it's genuine,” said Lapine.
To help fight against isolation, Yellow Door has begun a program called The Internet Project, where university students work with seniors to teach them how to communicate using email and social media.
Bozzo says that with the news of mail delivery phase-out, the organization is going to have to push harder to make sure seniors living alone stay connected with other people.
"We are requesting more and more support, but now we have to mobilize our volunteers a little bit more,” said Bozzo.