Loneliness and isolation: side effects of inflation among Canadian seniors

Jeraj. On trouve des choses comme ça à faire. On cherche constamment des choses qui ne coûtent pas très cher.”,”text”:”J’ai plutôt rejoint un groupe de cyclistes du troisième âge. Je fais du vélo avec eux deux fois par semaine et ça ne coûte rien, témoigne M.Jeraj. On trouve des choses comme ça à faire. On cherche constamment des choses qui ne coûtent pas très cher.”}}”>Instead, I joined a group of older cyclists. I ride with them twice a week and it’s free, testifies Mr. Jeraj. We find such things to do. We are constantly looking for things that are not very expensive.

Like all Canadians, seniors are forced to make difficult decisions as they forego frills and extras in the face of high rates of inflation.

However, older people also struggle with a unique problem that is less talked about: increased social isolation, which experts say often occurs when inflation is soaring.

The consumer price index was 7.6% in July compared to the previous year. That’s down 0.5 percentage points from last June, Statistics Canada said.

Photo: The Canadian Press/Nathan Denette

According to Statistics Canada, 27.9% of Canadian seniors lived alone in 2017-2018, compared to 14.0% of the general population.

Physicians recognize that maintaining social relationships and activities plays an important role in maintaining the mental and physical health of this segment of the population. Isolation among older adults is associated with increased emotional distress, prevalence of depression, increased number of falls, utilization of health and support services, and premature death.

Getting around costs money, even if it’s just meeting friends for coffee, going to church, or taking the bus to a college class.

People don’t believe that social isolation comes with inflationary costs. We immediately think that people will not be able to buy food, housing and medicinesays Laura Tamblyn Watts, President and CEO of CanAge, a national advocacy group for seniors. But you must be connected somehow, and there is a cost associated with that connection.

It’s a huge problem

Many Canadian seniors live on fixed pensions or rely on government benefits like the Canada Pension Plan, which, with its annual adjustment for inflation last January, has not kept pace with recent spikes in the cost of living.

Seniors are also concerned about their investment portfolios as inflation weighs on the stock market. For those who have relied on their home equity to fund their retirement, rising interest rates and their impact on the housing market are a real concern.

: leurs investissements ou leur pension n’ont pas augmenté, leurs prestations gouvernementales pourraient éventuellement augmenter, mais en ce moment, ils attendent dans les limbes, et les prix de tout ont augmenté”,”text”:”Beaucoup d’aînés que nous voyons sont dans cette crise: leurs investissements ou leur pension n’ont pas augmenté, leurs prestations gouvernementales pourraient éventuellement augmenter, mais en ce moment, ils attendent dans les limbes, et les prix de tout ont augmenté”}}”>A lot of the seniors we see are in this crisis: their investments haven’t gone up or their pensions have gone up, their benefits could potentially go up, but right now they’re waiting in limbo, and the prices of everything have gone upsays Larry Mathieson, executive director of the Kerby Center, a nonprofit organization that provides programs and services to seniors in Calgary and Medicine Hat. It’s a huge problem.

Go back to work to get out of the house

For Dorothy Bagan, who lives alone in her home in Calgary, the crisis is already being felt. She’s canceled her cell phone service, cut her cable TV plan, and sticks to a neatly curated list when shopping for groceries.

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

ans, explique MmeBagan. Et sur mes deux amis proches, un seul conduit encore, donc se voir a été tout un défi.”,”text”:”Mon cercle d’amis s’est réduit, et ce, pour une raison évidente. J’ai 74ans, explique MmeBagan. Et sur mes deux amis proches, un seul conduit encore, donc se voir a été tout un défi.”}}”>My circle of friends has shrunk for an obvious reason. I am 74 years old, Ms. Bagan explains. And of my two close friends only one drives anymore so it was quite a challenge to see each other.

In fact, Ms Bagan says she recently made the decision to go back to working part-time, not for the money, although that’s an added benefit, but because she needs to leave home.

I like dealing with people and interacting with them. I like being outside and being part of things, she says. I’m always helpful. Just because I’m an old person doesn’t mean I can’t contribute.

Pay to communicate

According to Tamblyn Watts, social isolation is one of the side effects of inflation. When seniors can’t afford to access the internet, they can’t connect with their family via Zoom or FaceTime. If they cannot afford hearing aids or glasses, it is more difficult for them to interact with the world. And when younger generations are busy working overtime to meet the rising cost of living, they are less likely to be able to babysit their moms and dads or make time to visit a big parent in the retirement home.

There will be more people living alone at home, unsupported and lonely. »

A quote from Laura Tamblyn Watts, President and CEO of CanAge

For his part, Mr. Jeraj considers himself lucky. He is married, he still drives a car. He and his wife have made a conscious effort to stay active and connected through low-cost activities like long walks and chatting with friends at home.

However, he knows that many of his peers are not so lucky.

I have parents who live alone and the price increase is a big problem for them. Mobility is also made more difficult because they cannot drive a car due to their age and state of healthcomplains Mr. Jeraj.

Social isolation is a big problem. It affects them psychologicallyhe closes.

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