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Nova Scotia

Inflation forcing N.S. seniors to make difficult budget decisions

A Halifax senior says the high cost of living is forcing her to make tough budget decisions – choosing between visiting her daughters in Cape Breton or spending the money on groceries.

Judy Bonnell is originally from Cape Breton but now resides in Northwood’s independent living facility. She said rising transportation and food costs have severely impacted her quality of life.

“In the last couple of years, especially the last year, I’ve noticed a huge difference,” said Bonnell, board member of Spencer House, a nonprofit organization that helps seniors in south Halifax.

Bonnell has a steady income from her pension. But she said she can’t afford to buy bus tickets or groceries, and she relies on Spencer House for much of her social interactions and meals.

She said she can get a full meal for $7 at lunchtime during the weekdays, and on the weekends she usually brings leftovers home to eat.

Meals are available weekdays at Spencer House in Halifax. (CBC)

She said she also had to give up some of her hobbies, including baking and concerts at the Rebecca Cohn Auditorium.

“You’re thinking about what you could do and what you can do because of the finances … and it’s frustrating,” Bonnell said.

“And it makes you feel like nobody cares. It affects your mental health.”

Doug Cooney, 71, is also a member of Spencer House. He said he wasn’t affected by rising prices as he doesn’t have a “broad menu”.

“I don’t eat much, I have baked beans and granola,” Cooney said.

“Rock and a Hard Place”

Bonnell’s story resonates with Bill VanGorder, executive spokesman for CARP, formerly known as the Canadian Association of Retired Persons.

VanGorder said he’s heard from many CARP members that while their pensions remain the same, they’re finding it increasingly difficult to adjust to the rising cost of living.

Bill VanGorder is a senior spokesman for CARP, formerly known as the Canadian Association of Retired Persons. (David Laughlin/CBC)

He said this puts many seniors “between a rock and a hard place” and it’s forcing them to make tough decisions that affect their quality of life.

“People may find that they don’t get to drive their car that often. They can’t participate in the social activities that they wanted,” VanGorder said.

“They can’t even do the everyday things they used to do because they can’t afford it.”


To make ends meet, some seniors turn to nonprofit organizations in their area for help.

Denise Daley, the managing director of Parker Street Food and Furniture Bank in Halifax, said about 20 percent of her customers are seniors.

She said people turn to the food bank because of the high cost of groceries or just for help to supplement their income.

Daley said people who use the food bank appreciate that they can “take food out of the mix” when it comes to balancing their budget.

Denise Daley is Managing Director of Parker Street Food and Furniture Bank in Halifax. (Robert Kurz/CBC)

Despite the existing high demand for their services, Daley hopes that with more financial help from the public and more volunteers, they can expand their services.

“One of the things we really want to do for our seniors is increase the number of deliveries that we can do,” Daley said.

“If we have more volunteer riders, we can definitely do more for our seniors, add more grocery boxes on our ride days or delivery days… because they really appreciate it.”

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