Nova Scotia

Senior poverty rising in Halifax, says report

Poverty rates among seniors is on the rise in the Halifax Regional Municipality, according to a new report by the Community Foundation of Nova Scotia.

1 in 13 seniors living in poverty in the HRM

A group of seniors enjoy a meal at Spencer House in Halifax. (CBC)

Poverty rates among seniors is on the rise in the Halifax Regional Municipality, according to a new report by the Community Foundation of Nova Scotia.

Halifax's Vital Signs — a report released earlier this week — estimates about one in 13 of the city's seniors are living in poverty.

For some of the seniors enjoying a hot lunch at Spencer House in Halifax on Tuesday, the statistics come as no surprise.

"There's food being cut, there's drugs being cut, everything," said Peggy Flemming.

The 77-year-old Halifax woman said she knows many seniors living in poverty and considers herself borderline.

"I know about 25, 35 people that I don't know how they're managing," she said.

"I'm watching what I spend my money on, I'm eating properly and I am getting my drugs. I get a $70 little packet that's waiting for me at the drug store, $70 is a lot of money for me."

According to the report, the poverty rate among the Halifax Regional Municipality's elderly was 7.8 per cent in 2010 — the second highest it has been in a decade. The highest was 10.4 per cent in 2000.

The report said the rate has been on the rise since hitting a 10-year low of 3.3 per cent in 2005.

Over the past decade, the city's poverty rate among senior citizens has generally tracked below the provincial rate and above the national rate, said the Community Foundation of Nova Scotia.

Allison Kouzovnikov, executive director of the foundation, said many factors could be contributing to why the numbers are rising.

"We know of the very difficult circumstances in the market in 2008, 2009 even into 2010. So that may have had an impact," she said.

"In addition to that, the segment of our population that's 65 years and older has grown by 30 per cent in HRM over the past 10 years."

Kouzovnikov said some of that growth comes from seniors moving from other parts of the province to the city for services.

Vanier Institute of the Family report, release in June, suggested seniors are 17 times more likely to live in poverty now than 20 years ago.

The government has said it will gradually raise the age of eligibility for Old Age Security to 67 from 65, starting in 2023. While it maintains Canadians are choosing to work past age 65 anyway, the numbers show that for many seniors, it is not a choice.

A rise in life expectancy could also be a contributing factor. In 1942, the average life expectancy for a man was 63. For a woman, it was 66. By 2009, it was 79 for men and 83 for women, Statistics Canada figures show.

Mel Boutilier, founder of the Parker Street Food and Furniture Bank, said it's getting more expensive to make ends meet.

"The income seniors had back maybe five, eight, 10 years ago is the same as they have now and with the price of everything going up, there's just not enough money," he said.

Seniors make up 13 per cent of the population of the Halifax Regional Municipality and the number is expected to increase as baby boomers age.