The National Shelter Study showed that 8.3% of residents of shelters are 55 and over (6.6% of users are aged 55-64 and 1.3% of users are over the age of 65). Additionally, older adults tended to have longer shelter stays (a month or more) before moving into housing compared to younger adults.
The research on homeless seniors has shown that the main causes tend to be varied including financial and health related. This includes lack of finances to pay for housing (low government assistance, insufficient pensions etc), lack of affordable and secure housing (including conversion of apartments into unaffordable condominiums), declining physical health, mental health issues, relationship breakdown, violence and abuse. The risk of homelessness can also be compounded by the death of a spouse, social isolation, discrimination, or lack of knowledge of benefits and services.
As the shelter population ages the system will need to determine how to address seniors’ mental health needs including depression, dementia, Alzheimer’s, delusional disorders and delirium, which are the most common mental illnesses amongst senior Canadians. Seniors in nursing homes and long-term care facilities experience a higher rate of mental illness than in the general population.
Register for the Community Workspace on Homelessness to discuss senior homeless populations.