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FEWO Committee Report

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In recent decades, life expectancy has increased around the world. In Canada, the proportion of seniors in the population is increasing faster than any other age group. In the 65 years and older age group, there are more women than there are men. Women also live longer than men on average, by several years.

Although women tend to live longer than men in Canada, their senior years may be different from those of men because of challenges related to poverty and vulnerability.  Senior women are more likely than senior men to live with low incomes. Senior women can face health and wellness difficulties, as well as discrimination, abuse and gender-based violence that may not be experienced by senior men.

Recognizing that senior women in Canada face specific challenges, and that these challenges can be harmful to their quality of life, the House of Commons Standing Committee on the Status of Women (the Committee) held hearings between February and May 2019 on the factors contributing to senior women’s poverty and vulnerability in Canada.

Witnesses told the Committee about many factors that can affect diverse groups of senior women’s financial security, health and wellness, and experiences of discrimination and gender-based violence. The Committee’s report describes the main factors that were highlighted by witnesses that have an impact on senior women’s quality of life, including:

  • the gender wage gap;
  • women’s tendency to participate in part-time and unpaid work, including caregiving;
  • women’s longer life expectancy compared to men, which can lead to greater physical challenges and financial insecurity;
  • the lack of accessibility and availability of affordable housing and transportation;
  • lack of funding for home care and community-based supports;
  • the high cost of medication, especially when combined with the costs of other basic needs including food and housing;
  • social isolation; and
  • discrimination and gender-based violence.

The Committee’s recommendations are intended to support diverse groups of senior women’s health and quality of life as they age by providing guidance to the Government of Canada on measures that could be implemented to address the factors contributing to senior women’s poverty and vulnerability.

The Committee believes that any approach to ensuring healthy aging and a good quality of life for Canada’s seniors must include the intersecting perspectives of diverse groups of senior women and must respect senior women’s rights to independence and autonomy. The Committee’s recommendations include proposals related to senior women’s income and financial security; access to affordable housing; social isolation; health and access to health services; and experiences of discrimination and gender-based violence.