Experts from around the world are gathering in Ottawa to discuss the rise of mounting debt faced by more and more seniors in Canada and abroad.
The senior’s debt conference, Carrying Debt to the Grave? The Increasing Indebtedness of the Elderly, at Carleton University features four panels that will examine the effect that owing money has on older populations in Canada, the Netherlands, Portugal and the U.S.
“We realized … that the problem of debt amongst the elderly was something that crossed international boundaries,” Saul Schwartz, professor of public policy and administration and one of the conference’s organizers, told CBC News.
“We knew that people were working on this issue but we didn’t think they were talking to each other, so we decided to try and bring them together. People working on health issues, people working in the international context, people working on bankruptcy.”
In 2012, 42.5 per cent of people aged 65 and over still had debt, which was a staggering increase of 55 per cent compared to 1999, according to Statistics Canada.
While the data is useful, Schwartz said finding more current research has been a bit of a challenge. “We don’t have firm numbers, we don’t have hard statistics on those kinds of issues,” he said.
However, Schwartz can point to a number of factors — such as a big mortgage, getting divorced, illness and elder abuse — that have led many seniors into debt.
“The prevalence of those things has been increasing and therefore the problems of debt amongst the elderly have been increasing,” he said.
Seniors taking on debt to help family
There’s also an increasing problem of seniors taking on debt to help their adult children.
Stacy Yanchuk Oleksy, director of education & community awareness at the Credit Counselling Society, said she often hears about adults having to say “no” to their adult children.
She points to one couple who was retired and took out a line of credit secured against their home to help their son move back home with his wife so that he could then save money to buy his own home.
She said there are other seniors who “have such a deep sense of obligation to pay their debt, they will forego repairs to their home, medication, food, which has a significant impact on health and stress.”
An international example
Nadja Jungmann, who works at the University of Applied Science in Utrecht, Netherlands, said her country is also…