Mary Martin and Mary Moylan are well into their golden years, but the two St. John’s women must still hold down jobs just to make ends meet.
Martin, 74, works as a home-support worker and Moylan, 76, works as an accountant, to supplement the fixed government income they say is far too little to live on.
“My income is $1,600 a month. So out of that $1,600 a month, that’s my CPP, my OAS and my GIS,” said Martin, referring to the Canada Pension Plan, Old Age Security and Guaranteed Income Supplement.
The two women have created a group called SOS — Support Our Seniors — which aims to raise awareness about the financial hardships of the elderly and are holding their first-ever meeting in St. John’s at 1:30 p.m NT on Thursday.
Moylan said that the federal government relies on seniors to keep their voices unheard, which she feels is the big issue. She hopes that by getting other seniors to join their group and remove the shame of living near poverty, seniors will have a stronger voice come election time.
“There’s a lot of reliance, I feel, on us being silent, and I want to end that,” Moylan said. “We want to end the silence around this and bring it more forward.”
“The poverty line, as far as we can determine because there’s very little data, is around $23,000 in Canada, right now. We’re way below that.… So we need to resolve this.”
While Statistics Canada data indicates poverty rates are declining among seniors across the country, data from the agency shows residents in St. John’s need over $35,000 minimum in income to be considered living above the poverty line. (In 2017, 238,000 Canadian seniors were living below the poverty line in 2017, according to Statistics Canada.)
Martin said she’s left with about $300 after her monthly bills such as rent, vehicle payments and medications are paid.
The $300 left over goes toward other basic necessities, such as groceries and clothing, she said. She often shops at thrift stores and only buys sale items at grocery stores.
Generation left to fend for itself
“It’s not a lot of money.… A lot of times, whatever my daughter cooks for supper, she’ll save me lasagna or something, and I’ll have that the next day,” Martin said.
Martin works five hours a day, 15 hours a week, and said she’s almost always tired after her shifts end. But she says that she’s thankful she can work even that much. Otherwise, she would likely have to give up her vehicle.
She said she knows there are many other seniors across Newfoundland and Labrador and likely across the country with similar stories. One is an 80-year-old housekeeper who works in the retirement facility where she lives.
Martin wants other seniors to know that her group is trying to do something about changing the way they live, but that her peers have to come forward and say that they need help.
She feels her generation is being left to fend for itself.
“We’ve contributed to building what we have here in this province and in the country, so we need more,” she said.
“We’re the forgotten generation.”