Pensioners Struggle with Soaring Cost of Living in Canada

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Doreen and Gerry Noseworthy retired more than 20 years ago. Doreen taught primary school and Gerry worked as an accountant and an administrator in the provincial public service. (Chris O'Neill-Yates/CBC)

Retired Newfoundland Couple Reflects on the Diminishing Power of Pensions Amid Rising Expenses

For Doreen and Gerry Noseworthy, retirement was expected to be their golden years, a time of rest and enjoyment after long careers in teaching and accounting. But the escalating cost of living has severely tarnished this dream, rendering their fixed pensions insufficient against rapidly increasing expenses.

According to CBC News, the couple’s plight is emblematic of a larger issue facing Canadian retirees, particularly those who rely on public pensions. Despite living within their means, the Noseworthys find themselves grappling with soaring costs for necessities like food, medicine, and home heating fuel.

“Our pension dollar is still worth what the dollar was worth 20 years ago,” Doreen Noseworthy told CBC News. “And people don’t realize that. They think that because you’re retired from teaching you’re a fat cat and you’ve got a great pension,” she added, highlighting the misconception surrounding the financial reality of many seniors.

The issue was recently underscored in a report by Susan Walsh, the provincial seniors’ advocate. Nearly one-third of seniors are unable to afford basic necessities, partly due to inadequate provincial systems. “They’re proud people, they worked their entire lives, they raised their families, they did all the right things,” Walsh stated.

The Noseworthys, who reside in Holyrood, face additional burdens such as a 100-kilometre round trip to St. John’s for essentials, with the cost of gasoline adding to their financial strain. “The cost of gas is another expense that we find has escalated beyond all reason,” Doreen Noseworthy said.

Moreover, the couple recently made the difficult decision to sell their family home due to skyrocketing maintenance costs. “Everything has gone up so crazy,” Noseworthy remarked, citing a $15,000 estimate for a necessary roof replacement.

Canada’s overall annual inflation rate ticked up to 3.3 per cent in July, from 2.8 per cent in June. Homeowners now pay 30 per cent more in mortgage interest than 2022. And while food price increases have dipped slightly since June, they’re still painfully high.

This financial squeeze is reflected in broader economic data. Leslie Preston, a TD Bank economist, informed CBC News that the average cost of groceries has risen by 20 percent over the past three years, the largest increase in four decades. Additionally, Statistics Canada reported a 3.1 percent rise in the consumer price index in October.

Doreen Noseworthy advocates for more regulatory control over profits earned by oil and food companies. “The big multinationals, they dictate and politicians are just puppets on a string,” she lamented.

Her activism extends to working with the Retired Teachers’ Association of Newfoundland and Labrador and the provincial Public Sector Pensioners Association, calling for more seniors’ housing and adequate support for aging in place.

Noseworthy also criticizes the government’s lack of preparedness for the housing needs of the aging Boomer generation. “Everybody in the world knew the Boomers generation had to get old. Were they ready for that? Not even close,” she stated.

As the Noseworthys prepare to move into an apartment, a scenario never envisioned in their retirement plan, they represent a growing number of Canadian seniors forced to make tough choices in a challenging economic climate. Walsh encapsulates this sentiment: “‘How did I get here?’ keeps being the question that we hear.”

This narrative is becoming increasingly common among Canadian pensioners, who find themselves in a predicament that demands both societal awareness and policy intervention.