Seniors wealthier than before

Posted on May 1, 2008 in Child & Family Debates, Governance Debates – census/seniors – Seniors wealthier than before
May 1, 2008 at 9:20 AM EDT. TOBI COHEN, Canadian Press

OTTAWA — The number of seniors living in poverty has declined dramatically over the past 25 years as incomes for those over 65 more than doubled, according to the latest census data released Thursday by Statistics Canada.

Figures show the median income for couples over the age of 65 reached $45,674 in 2005, up 55.8 per cent from 1980.

“Part of that is due to the increase in private retirement income,” Statistics Canada analyst Rene Morissette said.

“The second factor is that today’s elderly are much more educated than their counterparts in the past and that tends to increase their employment income.”

The percentage of seniors living in poverty also shrank, from 30 per cent in 1980 to 14.4 per cent in 2005.

Mr. Morissette attributes that in part to increases in old age security benefits, guaranteed income supplements and Canadian Pension Plan benefits.

“Another factor that might have played a role in recent years is the growing labour market involvement of women who, when they retire with their husbands, now may have been contributing several years to the CPP,” he said.

“As a result, (they) may receive greater pension income than their counterparts that… in the past were simply not working.”

In 2006, 1.2 million seniors said they lived on their own and nearly three quarters of them were women.

Of the more than 3.2 million couples without children at home in 2006, about a quarter of them were elderly couples over the age of 65 — a number that’s doubled over the last 25 years.

In that same time period, the median income of elderly women living on their own rose by 46 per cent to $19,923, while that of their male counterparts rose nearly 64 per cent to $23,886.

Over the past 25 years, retirement income from private pensions, for example, have grown faster than any other income source for seniors. It rose from less than 15 per cent of their income in 1980 to more than 30 per cent in 2005.

Seniors with richer private portfolios were also receiving less money from the federal government under old age security pension plans and guaranteed income supplements.

While payments from the Canada and Quebec pension plans increased for all seniors, total income for elderly couples and single men rose faster than their government benefits.

Elderly women living on their own also saw their government benefits jump by nearly 23 per cent between 2000 and 2005.

Seniors who had recently immigrated to Canada were also found to rely more heavily on employment earnings than their Canadian-born counterparts.

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