Let's keep discussion going on #SeniorsInNeed
Loucia Linkert, 59, (left) and Andrew Linkert, 72, shared their story with CTV News.
Published Wednesday, December 7, 2011 5:09PM EST
Last Updated Tuesday, June 12, 2012 7:55PM EDT
Like many of you I was struck to the core last night by Avis Favaro's report, on what a Toronto agency called a hidden crisis of Canadian seniors living in poverty.
If you missed it, read about it here and click on the video icon to watch Avis's story.
The statistic of 300,000 estimated Canadian seniors living under the poverty line is astounding.
And as social worker Josie De Placito points out, that number may be on the low side since a lot of seniors fly under the radar -- they may not file taxes or won't seek help from social services. And it's a number that doesn't take into account the financial meltdown of the last few years. It's probably safe to predict that statistic has ballooned since.
We asked for your input last night, for you to share your story or the story of someone you know who lives, barely getting by, much like Andrew and Loucia Linkert whom we featured in our newscast.
We were overwhelmed by the response.
Not just from those in similar circumstances but by those Canadians who were moved to tears and want to help those seniors who just can't help themselves -- or are maybe too proud to ask for help.
Here are just a few examples of those who spoke out or shared their stories with us:
On our Facebook page:
Nancy Giles identifies herself as the coordinator of the Brantford Seniors Resource Centre. She writes:
I work with seniors everyday that are struggling and have found that quite often they are either not aware of various government programs designed to meet their needs and may not be aware of supports that are available to them. Once we are able to explain what their options are we quite often can improve the quality of their lives by simply assisting them with applications and educating them as to options. Loneliness is a huge factor as well and we also offer a day support drop in program. Over the last 4 years we have had over 60,000 contacts with our office and we do our best to assist anyone that gets in touch with us. Many seniors don't know that they may qualify for Guaranteed Income Supplement or for Co Payment program for medications and once we are able to do applications and quite often get extra benefits for them. We have partnered with all our local Seniors Clubs and get referrals from them on a regular basis. Our office is a one stop kind of place and has info on all agencies dealing with seniors and we have published a guide Trillium Funding to better educate seniors about what is available to them.
Kelly Colhoun says she's in the process of starting a new agency called Adopt a Senior, in the Kitchener-Waterloo area. She writes:
Families will be asked if they would like to consider adopting a senior in need, either out of financial destitution or loneliness. Just imagine a senior with no family, living in a nursing home or alone in their home, with no visitors or not enough money to live on. Do you know how many seniors sit in a nursing home watching the door waiting and hoping for someone to visit them?? Wouldn't it be nice for a young family to adopt a Senior and they could have regular visits....pictures posted on their walls of youngsters again, and just Someone that cares. The new family could provide a fixed donation to a certain Senior either by cash, groceries, pay a certain bill for them or even to a fund that will provide other seniors with some extra money or needs. I'm hoping that we can help seniors. If anyone is interested in being part of this, would you please contact me via my facebook. Thanks so much,,,Kelly
Kelly also sent out this tweet using the #SeniorsInNeed hashtag that we started to get the conversation rolling on Twitter:
Diane Cox shares a personal fear echoed several times in our comments section and Twitter:
I just received an application form for O.A.S (Old Age Security Program) today in the mail, as I will turn 65 next November; I'm terrified that once my normal income stops, and I start collecting my company pension, CPP and OAS, I will struggle to pay my living expenses, let alone have enough left over to pay my bills. And I'm way better off than most, I acknowledge that your program only made me more nervous.
Knights Table identifies itself as a community kitchen and food bank in Brampton:
We have seniors coming in for meals and food bank, their numbers are on the rise. We've also noticed that a number of them are the primary care-giver for their grandchildren. Trying desperately to keep their grandkids out of the system. In some cases, the parent has died, become disabled or is addicted to substances. If you are in need of food, company, or direction to resources, reach out and tell someone. Please know that we are open 365 days a year and donations received by the community are given out to those in need. We are almost entirely run by volunteers. (99.4%) To learn more or find us go to our website www.knightstable.org Thank you to CTV for bringing this issue into the light. You might also want to look at how people are fairing on Ontario Works.
Larry Etienne writes:
I have two parents living in Thunder Bay in a public apartment. I haven't seen them in over 10yrs as I am disabled and, of course, low income. I constantly worry about their financial comfort but anything I ask about, there seems to be 'no problem'.
And we received many messages like these, from people who were moved by what they saw and want to help:
Dan Heffernan: I would like to set up a Charity. I will be looking into this over the next couple of days. I can afford $100 a month to pay toward such a Charity. My wife and I look after my wife's mother 24/7. I don't know why these elderly people do not have caring family members to assist them in their elder years, but we can be that family to make their lives bearable and comfortable in their time of need.
@PeterCsizmadia tweeted this message to me last night: Other Cdn biz owners need to step up a la Mr Cook. I can offer $100/mo. Is something in place to make this happen?
Judging from the responses we got it seems Vivian Prokop -- who wrote on our Facebook page that seniors living in poverty is a ‘massive and hidden problem' – is sadly right. She identifies a structural problem at the core of the issue as well:
"We are not organized to identify the issue and those affected are at a point in their lives where they do not know where to turn and there is no advocate for these people," writes Prokop. "The very unfortunate fact of the matter is that our society is not one that applauds elder care, and as reported by Lisa LaFlamme … many children and grandchildren simply walk away or only make cursary visits but take no action to help. As someone who cared for my parent in my own home for over 15 years, and who runs a charitable organization, I am saddened by this ever growing problem in our country."
Peter Cook, who runs Seniors for Seniors, summed it up succinctly and sadly in our story last night:
"There is a big hole out there and I don't know how to solve it other than to do what we are doing," he said.
Solutions can often be found through dialogue, so let's keep the discussion going. Avis Favaro is working on a follow-up which we'll air later this week -- and will be using some of your stories and feedback.
It is heartbreaking to see how many seniors are living this way, but heartwarming to know so many others want to do something to help.
See you tonight from Washington, where we are covering the historic border deal between Canada and the U.S. More on that later!