Female seniors in the Lower Mainland are struggling to make ends meet, with three out of five having to make due with less than $25,000 per year, according to a new report.
Put out by United Way of the Lower Mainland (UWLM), alongside the Social Planning and Research Council of B.C., the report goes on to say that while seniors may be struggling today, things are only going to get worse as Metro Vancouver's aging population looks to retirement.
According to Michael McKnight, CEO of UWLM, the report is aimed at raising public awareness about what to expect in the coming years in order to get initiatives put in place now, before it's too late.
"It's about being knowledgeable and able to respond to an aging population," said McKnight. "We see our health-care costs going up in this province and we know that research says if somebody is mentally healthy, they're going to be physically healthy, so we want to keep seniors engaged and make sure they can stay engaged into the future."
As for the statistic regarding female seniors, McKnight noted it's of particular interest when you consider Vancouver is part of the area covered in the report.
"We have the second most expensive city to live in the world, yet we have more than half of female seniors living in our area with basically nothing," said McKnight. "That's a challenge for the community in terms of how to provide support. (Seniors) are increasingly at risk for being homeless and are increasingly using food banks, and we need to be aware of that as our number of seniors increase."
When asked why females seem to be more at risk for financial struggles in their senior years, McKnight said it could be due to the role women played in previous generations.
"In those generations, often the females were the stay-at-home part of the marriage, and spousal benefits upon the death of a husband aren't nearly as much as the original pension was, so that's a doubly difficult situation to deal with," he said.
Other statistics look at the population ratios of seniors in each community, with White Rock taking the top spot with a 29.4per-cent senior population, as well as having the second highest number of seniors living alone, at 41.5 per cent - second only to Langley City, at 42.3 per cent.
"We know Surrey and White Rock both have a significant proportion of their population (who) are seniors, so a great deal of our attention goes to communities like that because we know volunteers and others play a big part in supporting seniors in our communities," said McKnight.
Additionally, the White Rock/South Surrey region has the largest concentration of older seniors, with 1,635 older seniors in total, as well as the most assisted care living facilities, with 905 care facility beds and 178 assisted living units.
"Overall, clearly we have an aging population in British Columbia, so the report is very important in determining how we can care for an aging population, both through public policy, but also with the design and implementation of programs for seniors in our communities," said McKnight.