Seniors no longer ready to suffer in silence

Mary Martin, 74, left, and Mary Moylan, 76, started the group SOS to support seniors who have to work to make ends meet.

SUFFERING IN SILENCE IS NOT THEIR THING ANY MORE. Mary Martin and Mary Moylan are going to start living out loud. The two believe that’s what it will take to get the attention they deserve.

The two women launched the group SOS (Support Our Seniors) in St. John’s, Newfoundland Labrador on August 29 to raise awareness about the financial hardships seniors have to wrestle with every day.

“We’re the forgotten generation,” says Mary Martin. “We’ve contributed to building what we have here in this province and in the country. We don’t deserve to be forgotten.”

Mary Moylan believes being forgotten comes from being silent. “There’s a lot of reliance, I feel, on us being silent, and I want to end that. Our idea with SOS is to end the silence around this and bring it more forward.”

Moylan hopes by getting other seniors to join the group, and speak out about their endless battle to make ends meet, seniors will have a stronger voice come election time.

Retirement is just a dream

Mary Martin and Mary Moylan are in their early seventies. But retirement is out of the question. Each has to work to make up the shortfall between their individual cost of living and what each gets from the from the Canada Pension Plan, Old Age Security and the Guaranteed Income Supplement.

Martin, 74, works as a home-support worker and Moylan, 76, works as an accountant.

Martin works five hours a day, three days a week. She says it’s not easy. But she says that she’s thankful she can work even that much. Otherwise, she would likely have to give up her vehicle.

She struggles to make ends meet on the $1,600 a month she gets from the three government plans.

Martin said she’s left with about $300 after she pays her regular monthly bills such as rent, car payments and medications.

The $300 left over goes toward other basic necessities, such as groceries and clothing, she said. She often shops at thrift stores and only buys sale items at grocery stores.

“It’s not a lot of money.… A lot of times, whatever my daughter cooks for supper, she’ll save me lasagna or something, and I’ll have that the next day,” Martin said.

Barely scrapping by

Statistics Canada data from 2015 shows people in Newfoundland and Labrador living alone need an average annual income of $19,683 to maintain a basic standard of living.

At $1,600 a month, a senior like Mary Martin is just below that, at $19,200 a year.

She said she knows there are many other seniors across Newfoundland and Labrador and likely across the country with similar stories.

The fact that seniors in the province need more financial help has been confirmed across Newfoundland and Labrador, according to Suzanne Brake, seniors’ advocate in N.L., who has been visiting communities in the province.

“They’re really challenged with how they make ends meet, how they make choices around what are the most important things in their lives,” said Brake.

The two Marys want other seniors to know her group aims to do something to change the hand-to-mouth way seniors have to live. But they know that change won’t happen until seniors stop suffering in silence and speak out—just like the two Marys are doing and intend to keep on doing.

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