More than 40 percent of seniors in Gastown, Chinatown, and the Downtown Eastside are living in poverty, review finds

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      Vancouver is one of the wealthiest cities in one of the richest countries on Earth, yet a troubling portion of the region's senior citizens are living in poverty, a new analysis reveals.

      "Metro Vancouver had the highest seniors (65+ years old) poverty rate of any urban area in British Columbia in 2015," reads the June 12 report by United Way of the Lower Mainland and the Social Planning and Research Council of British Columbia (SPARC BC). "Some areas of Metro Vancouver had seniors’ poverty rates much higher than even the high Metro Vancouver average, including four census tracts where more than two in five seniors lived in poverty in 2015."

      The review is based on Statistics Canada data for 2015. While it paints a troubling picture of the province as a whole, the report reveals certain geographic pockets where the problem is shockingly acute.

      In Richmond, for example, 20.3 percent of seniors are classified as poor.

      For the city of Vancouver, that number was 15.4 percent. In Burnaby, it was 16.1 percent, in New Westminster, it was 11.2 percent, and in Surrey, 16.5 percent of seniors were counted as poor.

      Taking a closer look at Vancouver, especially high proportions of seniors were found living in poverty on the city's east side.

      In Gastown, 40 percent of seniors were poor in 2015. In the Chinatown, 41.9 percent were poor. And in the Downtown Eastside, 46 percent of seniors were recorded as poor in 2015.

      "The number of older adults (55-64 years old) and seniors (65+ years old) in Metro Vancouver who were homeless has continued to increase from 180 in 2008 to 395 in 2017 going from 32 in 2008 to 123 in 2017," the report continues. "This represents an increase of 284%."

      In a June 12 press release, Scott Graham, associate executive director of SPARC BC suggests the statistics should prompt action from the government.

      “The B.C. Seniors’ Poverty Report Card provides compelling evidence that seniors’ poverty is a growing challenge across our province,” he said quoted there. “It provides clear evidence that specific poverty reduction strategies for seniors are necessary.”

      Seniors (65+ years old) poverty rates by province and territory, according to an analysis of Statistics Canada data from 2015.
      United Way of the Lower Mainland / SPARC BC

      Kahir Lalji, United Way of the Lower Mainland's provincial director of healthy aging, emphasized the extent to which the combination of aging and poverty can leave an individual "vulnerable and isolated”.

      “Every older adult is a part of a larger community, which is why holistic, community-based supports are essential to prevent and mitigate the negative impacts of poverty in their lives, and for their families and their caregivers," he said quoted in the release.

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