Why We Care
Vancouver’s downtown core, including downtown east and downtown south, is home to a vast population of low-income seniors. These seniors often live alone and die alone. As our city prepares for new growth in the downtown core, low-income seniors have become a forgotten population.
Many Seniors Live in SROs
A City of Vancouver study in 2016 estimated that 4,379 single room occupancy (SRO) units are contained in the downtown core, and many units of these SROs are inhabited by isolated low-income seniors. Sadly, one senior described his room as a “jail cell with no bars”. Without community intervention, SROs are often where seniors spend 80% of their lives.
Single Room Occupancy Units
- A typical SRO unit consists of one room about ten by ten feet, with only one bed and one sink.
- Their bathrooms are often shared facilities with an average of 25 people to one bathroom.
- Most do not have adequate cooking facilities and must rely on one hotplate for all their cooking needs. Some people do not even have a fridge.
Seniors Experience Isolation
For seniors struggling with poverty and living in SROs, there is little motivation to venture outside their tiny living quarters. Many seniors live in isolation with no one to visit and care for them except other neighbours who are also struggling with poverty issues. These seniors are left to live their final years in hardship, often forgotten by the world around them.
Poverty Destroys the Body and Spirit
Vancouver Coastal Health’s chief medical health officer Patricia Daly informed City council that Downtown Eastsiders have life expectancies that are, on average, 15 years shorter than their fellow Vancouverites across town in Kitsilano.
Approximately 30% of our overall membership lives in the Downtown Eastside within walking distance to our Hastings Street Centre. At one time this area was known as the poorest area of Canada. Despite improvements and gentrification, poverty still is quite prevalent.
In keeping with life expectancy levels in the community, Vancouver Second Mile Society considers anyone who is 50 years old (45 years old on disability) to be a senior. Various poverty issues including inadequate housing, complex health issues, isolation and lack of access to good nutrition results in the older years being particularly difficult for community members.
The crisis our seniors face is indifference. We can change this. By providing programs that take lonely seniors out of their rooms and into a caring circle of friendship we give seniors a sense of community. We actively address the social, recreational, nutritional and informational needs of low-income seniors. We help seniors help themselves!