British Columbia

Facing the housing crisis later in life: Vancouver seniors seek help

As options for suitable housing for seniors shrink amid the ongoing housing crisis, the West End Seniors' Network is holding a community consultation to identify the barriers seniors face.

The West End Seniors' Network says it is hearing from an increasing number of seniors in need

The West End Seniors' Network said it has been hearing from an increasing number of seniors who need help connecting with suitable roommates and housing resources. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)

Responding to calls for services to connect seniors with roommates, the West End Seniors' Network is hosting a public consultation to identify the community's needs.

According to the West End Seniors' Network, demand for housing services is on the rise as barriers to affordable, safe housing for seniors increase amid the ongoing housing crisis. 

"[Seniors] came to us and said they are having trouble affording where they're living; they are getting reno-victed or their building was being torn down for a new development," said Anthony Kupferschmidt, executive director of the West End Seniors' Network.

Adjusting to new living arrangements later in life can be difficult for seniors who often live on a fixed income and face issues tied to social isolation.

"We see seniors every day making tough choices between paying their rent, paying their electrical bills, paying for their medications or buying food," Kupferschmidt told Rick Cluff, host of CBC Radio's The Early Edition.

A diverse group

Seniors living in the West End are a diverse group; some own their own condos while others have been sleeping in their cars, according to Kupferschmidt.

The aim of Monday's consultation at Barclay Manor is to establish an understanding of the kinds of services seniors need, whether it's connecting them with potential roommates or helping renters understand their leases.

"We don't just want to throw two seniors together and see what happens. We want to be thoughtful about this," he said.

The group doesn't have a specific mandate to assist seniors with housing issues but decided to tackle the issue because their membership was asking for help. It already helps to ensure seniors receive the benefits they are entitled to.

But more help is needed as the housing crisis continues with increasing costs and dramatically low rental vacancy rates. Kupferschmidt said the solutions available to seniors are less than ideal and can put them at risk.

"Sometimes the best solution is to connect a senior with a shelter though there's not a lot of shelter beds that are appropriate for seniors," he said.

"In some cases the best case scenario is that a senior actually has to move out of their neighbourhood or out of Vancouver to another community; away from their social networks, their health professionals … then they're cut off."