Feb 22: Government benefits need to be boosted to avoid senior poverty: Carole Fawcett

February 22, 2024

For Carole Fawcett of Vernon, BC, it’s time for seniors across Canada to let governments of all stripes know that the current retirement benefits available to older Canadians aren’t sufficient – and many seniors are facing poverty in their golden years.

Fawcett, a freelance writer and editor and a retired counsellor, spoke recently to Save with SPP by telephone and email.

She agrees that government programs like the Canada Pension Plan, Old Age Security, and the Guaranteed Income Supplement were, when first created, “expected to `supplement’ the pensions that people would get from their job when they retired.”

“People used to stay with one company forever, so they built up a good pension. But now… very few people have pensions or can afford to put money aside for when they retire, as they were too busy just trying to exist,” she notes.

For that reason, Fawcett, and her group TINCUP, hope to get the word out to politicians and citizens that current government benefits just aren’t enough.

“I am hoping that with our demonstrations and creating awareness that something might change. We can only hope,” she says. “I also plan to contact media that broadcast to all of Canada – in hopes of getting attention for seniors. We also plan to write to politicians. We will be heard!”

We asked how life is for people who are 100 per cent dependent on programs like CPP, OAS and GIS.

Fawcett said seniors living solely on benefits can manage – barely – if they own their own residence. “Seniors who have to pay rent would be in dire straits. One fellow I met said he got $1,700 a month from his pension, but his rent was $1,800 a month. He has to dip into his savings in order to live somewhere. This means his savings won’t last that long,” she explains.

She knew of another senior who had to live in her car for 14 months – including the winter – before she could be placed in emergency housing.

“I interviewed a woman who was `renovicted,’ she adds. “She had lived in the apartment for 20-plus years, is a senior, and was told she had to leave. They said their son was going to move in and that they were going to do renovations. She took them to court and she lost. I still don’t know how that happened. She found another place one year ago and now has been evicted once again. She doesn’t know what she will do.” She is 73 years old, notes Fawcett, calling it a “sad situation.”

“A lot of seniors are living ‘small’ and I’m sure there is a lot of misery behind many a door,” she notes.

While she is supportive of efforts to house refugees and the homeless, Fawcett said our impoverished seniors also need governments to increase the level of support they are given.

The goals of the TINCUP movement, notes Fawcett, are as follows:

  • Creating awareness for all as to how low senior pensions are – below the poverty line.
  • Getting attention of politicians (provincial and federal) and hope that they will increase pensions up to the level of poverty – as many seniors live below that level.
  • More medical coverage for many health issues.
  • Encourage people to treat seniors with respect.
  • Tapping into the Boomer generation’s ability to make changes.

Fawcett explains that “health care needs to be affordable for seniors. Someone who lives in Kamloops and has to have cancer treatments in Kelowna has to pay for gas in order to get to the cancer treatment facility,” she explains. Medications for cancer can be very expensive. If you are on a tight budget, that can lead to tough choices, she says, noting that “we shouldn’t have to choose between healthy food or hearing aids.”

Fawcett adds that seniors should have better access to allied health services like massage, physiotherapy, and chiropractic care.

On respect, Fawcett says that whenever she gets called “dear, sweetie, or honey” by a younger person, that person gets a short lecture on why such names are condescending and disrespectful to seniors. “They get a little talk from me,” she says with a laugh.

On the power of Boomers, Fawcett notes that her generation “made a lot of changes – and we can do this again. Look at the women’s movement, the Viet Nam war, control over our bodies, and nuclear war. If we join together, we will be heard once again. We are tired of being unheard, invisible, and ignored, and given barely enough money to live with respect.”

“We are angry, and we won’t be silenced anymore,” she says.

Fawcett says her movement is focused on retirement income adequacy.

“There are many seniors who are living below the poverty line. The poverty line is approximately $25,750, and lots of seniors don’t even get that. It would be great if the government would top up the very low-income seniors,” she notes.

“It’s not like we are asking for trips to the Caribbean. We just want enough money to live on with respect. So that we can afford a cup of coffee or a lunch out occasionally with a friend. Everyone is more than horrified by how many seniors are living belove the poverty line,” she concludes.

A TINCUP website and social media presence are both in development; anyone interested in finding out more can contact Fawcett at Ca*****@sh**.ca.

We thank Carole Fawcett of TINCUP for taking the time to speak with us.

The Saskatchewan Pension Plan has been helping Canadians save for retirement since 1986. SPP is designed for those of us who don’t have a retirement program through work. Find out how SPP can help individuals save for retirement – or how it can be deployed as a pension plan in the workplace! Check out SPP today.

Join the Wealthcare Revolution – follow SPP on Facebook!

Written by Martin Biefer

Martin Biefer is Senior Pension Writer at Avery & Kerr Communications in Nepean, Ontario. A veteran reporter, editor and pension communicator, he’s now a freelancer. Interests include golf, line dancing and classic rock, and playing guitar. Got a story idea? Let Martin know via LinkedIn.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *