Caregiver Resources - Poverty

Poverty among older adults is a social and fiscal problem associated with economic vulnerability.(5)  Canada uses low-income cut-offs (LICO) as an indicator for economic vulnerability.(2) Low-income seniors tend to be not only “income poor” but also “asset poor.” (3)

Why is it important?

  • Poverty among older adults in Canada is around 6.7% (5)
  • Poverty is associated with increases in cardiovascular disease, diabetes, mental illness, some cancers, hypertension, arthritis, COPD,  and multiple chronic conditions

Common Causes

  • Single individuals are 4 times more likely to be poor than individuals living in families (1)
  • Older women tend to have lower incomes because wages were inferior when employed and since, on average,  they live longer, they are at greater risk of using up savings (2)
  • Women who are divorced have lower retirement incomes than single women or widows because most do not claim a portion of former spouse’s pension (2)
  • Disabled seniors, Aboriginals, recent immigrants, and those who have worked less than 10 years are also at risk of poverty (2)(3)

Key Considerations

  • Income inequality among seniors is growing: since many seniors live on fixed incomes right above the poverty threshold, a small change in expenses or income can have a large impact on poverty rates and quality of life (1)
  • Low-income seniors spend close to 60 % of their expenditures on food and housing, transportation and health-related costs (3)
  • Personal income taxes and government transfers (such as social assistance and Old Age Security), Guaranteed Income
  • Supplement payments and pension plans have helped to reduce elderly poverty (5)

Are you aware of all the benefits and financial aid that you are entitled to? (4)

    • Do you receive Old Age Security and Guaranteed Income Supplement?
    • Have you filled out and mailed your tax forms? (tax returns are essential to access many income security benefits e.g. GST / HST credits, working income tax benefits, property tax credits and drug coverage forms such as Extended Health Benefits or Trillium for those without Ontario Drug Benefits)
    • Do you receive payments for disability? (Eight major disability programs: ODSP, CPP Disability, EI, Disability Tax Credit, Veterans benefits, WSIB, Employers’ long term protection, Registered Disability Savings Plan)
    • Are you status Indian? (First Nations with the Status designation may qualify for Non-Insured Health Benefits through the federal government. These pay for drugs and other extended health benefits not covered by provincial plans)
    • Have you applied for extra income supplements?
      • Mandatory Special Necessities Benefits (MDs bill K054 for $25): Medical supplies and health  related transportation (includes  e.g. AA, psychotherapy)
      • Limitation to Participation (MDs bill K053 for $15): Disability can exclude a recipient from mandatory job search and training programs.
      • Special Diet Allowance (MDs bill K055 for $20): some health conditions will qualify a recipient for extra income.
      • Other benefits available: Employment supports, Drug & Dental, Vision, Hearing, ADP Co-payment, Community Start Up & Maintenance, Women in Transition/Interval Houses,  Advanced age allowance, Community Participation ($100 per month extra for volunteering). “Discretionary Benefits.” Applications and benefits available through a  patient’s OW/ODSP worker. 


  1. Citizens for Public Justice. (2012). Poverty Trends Scorecard. Retrieved March 19, 2014 from:

  2. National Advisory Council on Aging. (2005). Aging in Poverty in Canada. Retrieved March 19, 2014 from:

  3. National Seniors Council. (2009). Report of the National Seniors Council on Low Income Among Seniors. Retrieved March 19, 2014 from:

  4. Ontario College of Family Physicians. (2013).  Poverty: A Clinical Tool for Primary Care in Ontario. Retrieved March 19, 2014 from:

  5. The Conference Board of Canada. (2013).  Elderly Poverty.  Retrieved March 19, 2014 from:

  6. A Guide to Programs and Services for Seniors in Ontario. (2018).  Queen's Printer for Ontario. Retrieved November 29, 2018 from: