More Hamilton seniors are living on lower incomes, especially in the lower city

The number of seniors in Hamilton is growing substantially, but more often, they're working longer, have lower incomes and are living alone.

A growing number of seniors are working, but not always by choice

Dementia is a fatal, degenerative brain disease that eventually makes a person's ability to perform every day tasks impossible. (Robert Kneschke/Shutterstock)

The number of seniors in Hamilton is growing substantially, and more of them are working longer, have lower incomes and are living alone.

That's the finding of a new Vital Signs report from the Hamilton Community Foundation.

It found the number of people aged 85 or older grew by 55 per cent over 10 years.

Of those 65 and over, about 11 per cent fell below the poverty line of $20,386 — especially in the lower city.

The ratio of seniors who are working has doubled. And of those working, many are in low-paying jobs, says Jeff Wingard, Vital Signs project director. 

"We saw a rise in poverty rates for the first time in recent memory," he said.

Seniors' poverty was more prevalent in the 1970s, and there was concerted political effort to reduce it, Wingard said. "When we start to revert, it's something we need to pay attention to."

The Hamilton Community Foundation regularly releases Vital Signs info, gathered from Statistics Canada, the National Household Survey and other data sources. It already contains useful information, such as the number of commuters who live in Hamilton, how people get to work and how much they're spending on housing.

The latest release focuses on seniors, specifically their demographics, health, housing and income.

Wingard said the trend of more seniors working is great if it's by choice. But he suspects it isn't always, especially since they're often in lower-paying retail jobs.

"Jobs that used to have pensions and retirement plans are disappearing," he said.

"A lot of people are choosing to work past 65 and that's great, but there's also a group of seniors out there continuing to work because they have to and not because they want to."

Another stark finding, Wingard said, is the growing isolation.

Nearly 75 per cent of seniors live in their own homes, and most are single detached houses. And that percentage is increasing. 

Twenty-seven per cent of seniors live alone, he said, compared to 23.5 per cent provincially. Seventy per cent of those are women, a number that increases to 78 per cent for those over 85.

That also means loneliness and isolation is increasing, he said.

Here are some other findings:

  • In 2016, just over 13 per cent of seniors 65+ were working, nearly double the 6.7 per cent in 2001. It increased about the same provincially.
  • The number of seniors below the low income measure was 11.6 per cent in 2015, up from 8.3 per cent in 2010. The low income measure is $31,301 for a two-person household and $22,133 for a single person. The provincial average is 12 per cent.
  • Poverty was especially stark in the lower city. In the area from James Street to Wellington and King to Cannon, 66.1 per cent of seniors fell below the low income measure. For Queen to James and Hunter to King, it was 53.2 per cent, and from Wentworth to Sherman and Main to Cannon, it was 48 per cent.
  • Greater Hamilton Foodshare says there has been a 20 per cent increase in seniors accessing food banks in the last year. In 2018, seniors made up 4.6 per cent of all visits to a food bank. In 2017, it was 3.8 per cent. This is more extreme than the provincial trend.
  • The median individual income for Hamilton seniors in 2016 was $29,780, lower than the median of $33,010 for all Hamiltonians. For people aged 65 to 74, the median income was $31,606. For those 75 to 84, it was $27,523, and those over 85, it was $26,940. The increase in median incomes for seniors was larger than inflation.
  • Seniors account for 17.3 per cent of Hamiltonians. Dundas has the highest rate of seniors at 23.8 per cent, while upper Stoney Creek has the lowest with 10.9 per cent.
(Vital Signs)
This chart shows the percentage of seniors in each ward. (Vital Signs)

About the Author

Samantha Craggs is a CBC News reporter based in Hamilton, Ont. She has a particular interest in politics and social justice stories, and tweets live from Hamilton city hall. Follow her on Twitter at @SamCraggsCBC, or email her at samantha.craggs@cbc.ca


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