LETTER: Systemic ageism puts seniors in poverty

Discrimination based on age is one of the most well-tolerated and destructive forms of prejudice in our society. The federal Old Age Security (OAS) program exemplifies how systemic ageism can even sabotage an otherwise progressive social program.

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The two most recent OAS payments came on Dec. 20 and Jan. 29. At the most expensive time of the year, seniors were forced to wait almost six weeks between cheques. Meanwhile, parents receiving Canada Child Benefits got them much sooner. It would be against the law for any employer to make their workers wait a month and a half for a paycheque. When did our ageist federal government start viewing senior citizens as less worthy or valuable than other people?

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Ageism breeds poverty. The highest monthly amount that a senior can receive with a combination of the OAS and the Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS) is $1,499.77. In 2018, Statistics Canada defined the low income cut-off, or poverty line, as $22,133 for a single person – approximately $1,844.42 per month.

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The most bitter manifestation of age discrimination is the federal government’s insistence on putting seniors out to pasture. The OAS program offers no incentives for seniors to earn extra income and improve their lives. As soon as they earn $24 on their own, their federal payment goes down one dollar.

The fall federal election is an opportunity to vote in leaders who see our senior citizens as productive and valued members of society, deserving of a high quality of life.

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Doreen Gee

Victoria

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