Orillia's Norman Lewthwaite says he and many local seniors feel let down by the federal government.
The retired 73-year-old has been struggling to make ends meet. He says each month he pays $1,700 for rent, $416 for his car payment, $192 for car insurance, about $160 for other various bills, and $240 for food — all while banking just $1,500 from his pension.
To try to keep his head above water, Lewthwaite got a job as a pizza delivery driver. But, on Aug. 16, Lewthwaite hit a deer on County Road 46 which resulted in his car being a total write-off. He was making a delivery at the time.
Lewthwaite concedes he was not insured to drive as a food service delivery driver and that's why his accident will not be covered by insurance; he has lost his driving privileges unless he is willing to pay an extra $200 a month for insurance going forward.
“Nobody told me I needed special insurance. I’m just a senior trying to make ends meet,” he said.
“My wife and I don’t have enough to get the extra things we need. I can’t drive my car, I can’t go shopping ... these are the things I’m going through.”
Lewthwaite says he has applied for other jobs but can’t find work despite his years of experience; he says many are wary of hiring a senior.
He says he feels like all levels of government have abandoned seniors.
“We need more money to live; I don’t have enough to live off. Now, I don’t have a car, so I have to walk everywhere, we don’t have extra money to do anything,” he said.
“There is no senior housing. I applied for Ontario Housing and was told it would be ten years before I got anything," he claimed.
Simcoe North MP Bruce Stanton says the cost of living for seniors is one of the toughest issues the government is facing.
“Stats Canada will tell us that the number of seniors living below the poverty line has decreased in the last few decades, and much of that was because of the significant changes to Old Age Security and a Guaranteed Income Supplement,” he explained.
“However, that does nothing to address the kind of situations like Norman’s, and we hear on a regular basis that there is a difficulty for seniors to make ends meet.”
Stanton says with the inflated prices of housing and living, some seniors are left in a desperate situation.
“Our public pension system is designed to give seniors about a quarter of what the pre-retirement income is for a person in Canada, but 25% is not enough,” he said.
“People are now starting to pay higher premiums for Canada Pension so that when today's working class of people in wage employment get to retirement they will give them a much higher number in terms of a pension benefit, but that doesn’t help today’s seniors," says the long-time MP who is retiring after the Sept. 20 election.
Stanton says the situation impacts the health and wellness of seniors.
“When they get into long-term care, many do fall into poor health because of their poverty ... there is a solid line relationship there,” he said.
“I think federal and provincial governments owe it to our seniors to find ways to enhance our retirement system.”
Stanton encourages today's working adults to take advantage of having the ability to put some money away so that when they retire, have an unexpected illness, or disability, they will have something in addition to the public pension system.
“I wish we had some better answers. I’ve had this conversation with seniors many times,” he said.