COLUMN: More seniors in the workforce, report shows
How are seniors managing and planning for the future? The Seniors in the Lower Mainland: A Snapshot of Facts and Trends released last week by the United Way and SPARC BC tells an interesting story.
More are working: The snapshot shows that fewer seniors today are relying on RRSPs and investment income than they did 10 years ago (RRSPs dropped from 11.1 to 8.5%, investment income dropped to 58% from 65.4%) while those relying on private pensions, CPP and OAS have not changed much.
Meanwhile, employment income jumped from 16.4% to 28.1% from between 2000 and 2010 and, with housing costs being what they are, that trend can be expected to grow.
More live as couples: in the Tri-Cities there are fewer seniors living alone now than in 2011. Could economics be playing a factor? After all, it’s expensive to live in this region. Single seniors, especially women, live with less money than single men, (three in five women are living on less than $25,000 a year).
Single men do better with less than half living on less than 25,000 per year. But couples do better than both, with a median income of $56,560.
Men are staying healthier and may be living longer than they did a decade or two ago and that is good news because it seems couples do better financially than singles.
More are staying in the family home longer: In the Tri-Cities, a relatively affluent community, about 50% of seniors live in single family homes, with the remainder in a mix of low-rise, high rise, homes with basement suites and other arrangements.
But there are pockets of need, and as seniors age, they require more housing options, including those that can accommodate mobility or health challenges. This could be an issue in the Tri-Cities where there are fewer social housing units (4.3 per 100 seniors) compared to the Metro average (7 per 100 seniors), and 100 disabled seniors are on a waiting list for housing.
High costs for care: When it comes to aging gracefully, affordable housing is increasingly important but older seniors who can’t live at home will pay high costs for assisted living (independent units with limited health care) and nursing care at a seniors facility.
Fees are approximately $3,000 a month for a one bedroom assisted living unit and $5,626 a month for heavier care. Those costs will only continue to rise, prompting seniors to stay independent and in their own homes as long as possible.
Seniors will need help to stay at home: As seniors age, their mobility decreases and they will need help from family members or the community in future years. In the Tri-Cities, this will become an important issue as between 44% and 54% of seniors report activity limitations, with Port Moody seniors being the most mobile (66% report no activity limitations).
Thankfully, a substantial number of seniors (70.7%) report that they are functionally in good health. More than 95% have a regular medical doctor and most feel engaged with the community.
In the Fraser North region, for example, which includes the Tri-Cities, 84.5% of seniors feel a somewhat strong or very strong sense of community belonging. That number is up considerably from 66.5% who felt that way in 2003.
That’s a good base on which to build an age-friendly community that will support seniors for years to come.
Diane Strandberg covers education, transportation, environment, politics, social and heritage issues for The Tri-City News.