Loneliness and isolation, side effects of inflation among Canadian seniors

(Calgary) Azim Jeraj canceled his gym membership earlier this year.

Posted at 5:00 am

Amanda Stephenson
The Canadian Press

The 69-year-old Sherwood Park, Alta., resident says he can no longer justify the monthly fees amid rising costs for groceries, utilities and prescription drugs.

“Instead, I joined a group of older cyclists. I ride my bike with them twice a week and it’s free, says Mr. Jeraj. You find such things to do. They are constantly looking for things that are not very expensive. »

Like any other age group right now, Canadian seniors are being forced to make tough choices as they go without frills and extras in the face of the highest rates of inflation in nearly 40 years.

However, older people also face a unique challenge that is less talked about: increasing social isolation, which experts say often occurs due to high inflation.

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

Doctors know that maintaining relationships and social activities plays an important role in the mental and physical health of this age group. Social isolation in older adults has been associated with increased emotional distress, prevalence of depression, more falls, utilization of health and support services, and even premature death.

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

“People don’t believe that social isolation comes with inflationary costs. We immediately think that people will not be able to buy groceries, homes and medicines,” said Laura Tamblyn Watts, president and CEO of CanAge, a national organization that defends elders. “But you have to be connected somehow, and there are connection costs. »

Prices go up, but incomes don’t

Many Canadian seniors live on fixed pensions or rely on government benefits like the Canada Pension Plan, which, with its annual inflation adjustment in January, has failed to catch up with recent skyrocketing cost of living.

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

“A lot of seniors that we see are in this crisis. Their investments haven’t gone up or their pensions, their benefits could 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, to the non-profit that provides programs and services for seniors in Calgary and Medicine Hat. “It’s a huge problem. »

Social isolation is part of the “top-down effect of inflation,” says Dr.me Tamblyn Watts. If seniors can’t afford internet access, they can’t connect with their families zoom Where FaceTime. If they can’t afford hearing aids or glasses, they have fewer opportunities to interact with the world. And when younger generations are working overtime, they are less likely to be able to babysit mom and dad.

“There will be more people living alone at home, unsupported and isolated,” adds Dr.me Tamblyn Watts.


PHOTO JASON FRANSON, THE CANADIAN PRESS

Azim Jeraj at his home in Sherwood Park, Alberta

For his part, Mr. Jeraj considers himself lucky. He’s married, still drives, and 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 cost to them is a big issue. Even mobility, because they can’t drive because of their age and their health condition,” laments Mr. Jeraj.

“Social isolation is a very big deal. It affects them mentally,” he concludes.

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