- Overall, seniors’ incomes have risen faster than the cost of living since 2006.
- After years of improvements, there has been an increase in the poverty rate among seniors, especially women.
- There is a range in seniors’ poverty rates by neighbourhoods – according to the Low Income Measure, one neighbourhood was at 66%, several were above 50%, and at other end, there were several with less than 5%.
- Similar to the poverty rate, there has been an increase in food bank usage among seniors.
- The proportion of seniors who are participating in the labour force has doubled since 2001.
In 2016, the median individual income for seniors in Hamilton was $29,780, lower than the median for all Hamiltonians ($33,010). Median incomes fell as people got older to $31,606 for people 65-74, $27,523 for people 75-84, and $26,940 for people age 85+. Since 2006, median incomes for seniors have increased 30%, while the cost of living has increased 18% over the same time.
IncomesNumber of seniors living in low income
One way to measure poverty is the after-tax Low Income Measure, which looks at the percentage of people who have incomes below 50% of the median income for households in Hamilton. For a two-person household, the after tax LIM is $31,301, for a single person, it is $22,133.
In Hamilton in 2015, 11.6% of seniors lived in households that were below the Low Income Measure, up from 8.3% in 2010. Hamilton’s rate was similar to provincial average (12%), and lower than the national (14.5%) average. Senior women in Hamilton were significantly more likely to live in poverty than senior men: 13.8% compared to 9.1%.
The percentage of seniors living below the Low Income Measure varied widely across neighbourhoods: several neighbourhoods had poverty rates above 48% (with one neighbourhood at 66.1%), while several had rates below 5%.
A second way to measure poverty is the before-tax Low Income Cutoff (LICO), which measures households who need to spend 20% more than the average household on the basics of food, shelter and clothing. This measure is adjusted for community size. For a Hamilton family of two, the LICO is $24,811, for a single person, it is $20,386.
In 2015, 7.4% of Hamilton seniors lived in households that were below the LICO, up from 6.3% in 2010, but lower than 9.0% in 2005. The seniors poverty rate (below the LICO) continues to be higher than the provincial and national average (both are 5.1%). Similar to the LIM, senior women were more likely to experience poverty than senior men: 8.9% compared to 5.7%.
Similar to the LIM, neighbourhoods varied widely with the LICO,. Several neighbourhoods had poverty rates above 45% (with one at 54%), while there were several with rates below 2%.
IncomesNumber of seniors accessing emergency food
There has been an increase in the number of seniors who access food banks in Hamilton as well as across Ontario. Data from Greater Hamilton Foodshare revealed a 20% increase in seniors accessing a food bank in the last year: in 2018, seniors made up 4.6% of all visits to a food bank, up from 3.8% in 2017. A detailed analysis of those visits found that most senior households (61%) made only one visit to a food bank per month (one visit supplies food for three to five days). An additional 23% made two visits per month, with the remaining 16% making more than two trips per month.
These local findings are more extreme than the provincial trend outlined in a recent report by the Ontario Association of Food banks, which found a 10% increase in seniors using food banks across all of Ontario. Reasons cited by the OAFB for the increase include a decline in company pensions, a decline in personal savings and a decline in the real value of, or difficulty accessing, government benefits.
IncomesLabour force participation rate for seniors
This trend is also true nationally: the number of seniors participating in the labour force doubled from 1995 – 2015, and is currently at the highest rate since the 1981 census. In a recent report entitled Census in Brief: Working Seniors in Canada, researchers found that of seniors who worked in 2015, 30% worked full-time, and the majority of those were men. Additionally, seniors with a bachelor’s degree or higher and those without a private retirement pension were more likely to be working than other seniors.
The most common occupations for senior men working full-time, full-year were managers in agriculture, retail and wholesale trade managers, transport truck drivers, retail salespersons, and janitors/caretakers. Senior women who worked full-time, full-year were most commonly administrative assistants, managers in agriculture, administrative officers, retail salespersons, general office support workers, and wholesale trade managers.
The authors pointed out that some seniors stay in the labour force out of choice, and others by necessity. They found three primary reasons for the increased labour force participation: 1) increased educational attainment, 2) improved life expectancy, and 3) changes in seniors’ financial status or obligations – primarily the reduction of jobs providing private retirement pensions.
 Statistics Canada, 2016 Census. Data supplied by the City of Hamilton.
 Statistics Canada, 2016 Low Income Measure Thresholds.
 Statistics Canada, 2016 Census, Hamilton Census Profile.
 Statistics Canada, 2016 Low Income Cutoff Thresholds.
 Statistics Canada, 2016 Census, Hamilton Census Profile.
 Ontario Association of Food Banks, 2018. Hunger Report 2018: A looming crisis: senior hunger in Ontario.
 Statistics Canada, 2017. Working seniors in Canada.
 Participating in the labour force means either being employed or actively seeking employment.
 Statistics Canada, Census of Population 2006, 2016, and National Household Survey, 2011. Data provided by Workforce Planning Hamilton.