Increased loneliness and isolation as a side effect of inflation among Canadian seniors


CALGARY – With inflation at its highest level in nearly 40 years, Canadians are feeling the financial strain. In a six-part series this summer, The Canadian Press is reaching out to people at different stages of their lives to see where they’re hit hardest. This final story in the series details how rising inflation is affecting the elderly.


Azim Jeraj canceled his gym membership earlier this year.

The 69-year-old resident of Sherwood Park, Alberta. says he could no longer justify the monthly fee in the face of the rising cost of groceries, utilities and prescription drugs.

“I joined a group of senior cyclists instead. I cycle with them twice a week, and it costs nothing,” Jeraj said. “You find things like that to do. You are constantly looking for things that are not very expensive.

Like every other age demographic right now, Canadian seniors are being forced to make tough choices, cutting out frills and extras in the face of high rates of inflation for nearly 40 years.

But older people also face a unique challenge, which is less talked about – the increased social isolation that experts say often occurs due to high inflation.

According to Statistics Canada, 27.9% of Canadian seniors in 2017-2018 lived alone, compared to 14% of the general population.

Doctors know that maintaining relationships and maintaining social activity play an important role in the mental and physical health of this age group. Social isolation in older adults has been linked to increased emotional distress and the prevalence of depression, increased falls and use of health and support services, and even premature death.

But getting around costs money, even if it’s just meeting friends for coffee, driving to a church service, or taking the bus to a fitness class.

“People don’t think social isolation is linked to inflationary costs. What we think immediately is that people won’t be able to buy food, shelter, take their medicine,” said Laura Tamblyn Watts, CEO of CanAge, a national seniors’ advocacy organization. “But you have to be connected somehow, and the connection costs.”

Many Canadian seniors live on fixed pensions or rely on government benefits such as the Canada Pension Plan, which, with its annual adjustment in January for inflation, has not caught up with recent skyrocketing increases in the cost of life.

Seniors are also worried about their investment portfolios as inflation weighs on the stock market. And for those who have been banking on their home equity to support their retirement, rising interest rates and their effect on the housing market are a real concern.

“A lot of seniors that we see are in this crisis – their investments or their pensions haven’t gone up, their government benefits could possibly go up, but right now they’re waiting in limbo, and the prices of everything have gone up, “Said Larry Mathieson, executive director of the Kerby Centre, a non-profit organization that provides programs and services for seniors in Calgary and Medicine Hat. “It’s a huge problem.”

For Dorothy Bagan, who lives alone in the house she owns in Calgary, the crisis is already being felt. She’s canceled her cell phone and cut back on cable TV, and sticks to a neatly curated list when shopping.

She also does not own a car and although she is an avid public transport user and volunteer in the community, her social life has shrunk.

“My circle of friends has shrunk, for an obvious reason. I’m 74,” Bagan said. “And the two close friends I have, well, only one of them still drives, so seeing each other was a challenge.”

In fact, Bagan said she recently made the decision to go back to work part-time — not because of the money, although that’s an added perk, but because she has to get out of the house.

“I love engaging and interacting with people…I love being out there and being part of things,” she said. “I am always useful; Just because I’m an old person doesn’t mean I don’t have anything to contribute.

Social isolation is part of the “top-down effect of inflation,” Tamblyn Watts said. If seniors can’t afford to access the internet, they can’t connect with their families through Zoom or FaceTime. If they cannot afford hearing aids or glasses, they have less ability to interact with the world. And if younger generations are busy working overtime to meet their rising cost of living, they are less likely to be able to watch over their mothers and fathers or make time to visit a grandparent in a retirement home. residence.

“There will be more people living at home alone, unsupported and lonely,” Tamblyn Watts said.

For his part, Jeraj said he felt lucky. He’s married, he still drives, and he and his wife have made a conscious effort to stay active and connected through inexpensive activities like taking long walks and entertaining friends at home.

He knows, however, that many of his peers are not so lucky.

“I have parents who live alone, and the cost for them is a big issue. Even mobility, because they can’t drive because of their age and their health,” Jeraj said.

“Social isolation is a very big thing. It affects them a bit mentally.

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on August 17, 2022.


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