Photo by Christopher Katsarov Luna / The Local

Last Updated: February 2, 2024

The City of Toronto is home to nearly 477,000 people over the age of 65. Older adults make up more than 17 percent of the city’s population, and the number is on the rise: by 2041, it’s expected that people over 65 will make up 21.2 percent of the city.

Like so many of Toronto’s residents, older adults are dealing with unaffordability, problems with moving around the city, inaccessible health care, and a lack of public spaces to socialize and stay fit. According to a 2020 Social Planning Toronto report, Toronto has one of the highest rates of senior poverty among large urban centres in the country, with 17.4 percent of seniors living in low-income households, compared to 12 percent of seniors in Ontario and 14.5 percent across Canada.

And while many aging Torontonians have access to some level of government support and funding, accessing those resources can be difficult. The main barrier is that those services are underfunded and underdeveloped, says John Bagnall, a board member of advocacy group Care Watch Ontario. “The province has, in recent years, decided to put forth more money, but it’s still far short of what is needed,” he says.  And often benefits and services are funded for a finite amount of time, so by the time those in need find out about a service, it might not exist anymore.

But lack of funding isn’t the only problem. Often older adults simply don’t have the information they need to access the services they’re eligible for. Because applying for government assistance requires a lot of bureaucracy—forms, gathering information, making sure you have valid ID—they sometimes get frustrated and give up, he says.

Racialized seniors, newcomers or seniors from lower-income communities are more likely to miss out, largely because information about programs is hard to find, especially if there’s a language barrier.

And even if language isn’t a barrier to applying, finding information can be a challenge. Not having access to a computer and internet can mean that even the most tech-literate seniors can’t find information about services—and information is often scattered around the internet, making it difficult to navigate and find.

On top of that, information about services is often unclear. For example, Bagnall says many people will try to apply for a one-bedroom when looking at assisted housing options—not understanding that bachelor units have much shorter wait times. “That information would influence their decision making,” Bagnall says. Without counsellors or social workers to help, seniors are left in the dark about what options they have and how to access them.

Here is The Local’s best attempt at creating a comprehensive list of seniors benefits, tax credits, and programs.