Two St. John’s women are organizing seniors to fight poverty among their ranks.
The two Marys — Mary Martin and Mary Moylan — are launching the Support Our Seniors on (SOS) Thursday.
Both live in the same building and said Martin, they both are divorced and raised children and don’t have a public sector pension.
About a year ago, they met through a mutual friend and began comparing circumstances over coffee.
“We’re in our 70s and still struggling to make ends meet,” Martin said.
They started looking at stats and discovered across Canada there’s a common problem of single senior women living below the poverty line.
"When you have three kids and don’t have any other support, you’re not going to have money to put away for retirement." — Mary Martin
They’ve been working on the launch of the group for about seven months now.
Martin says by the time she pays out for rent, heat and lights and the upkeep of a car, as well as internet and groceries, there’s nothing left.
Martin worked at a variety of jobs and said there just wasn’t any extra to contribute to RRSPs and if there ever was a bit of money, she took her kids on a small holiday.
“That’s another thing we want to bring out — there’s no shame in living in poverty. It’s not my fault. I worked. When you have three kids and don’t have any other support, you’re not going to have money to put away for retirement,” Martin said.
There are two classes of seniors, Martin said — Category 1 are those with provincial and public sector pensions and health benefits.
Category 2 are those who worked in the private sector and didn’t earn enough for large retirement savings, but have only a drug card that doesn’t cover necessities like eyeglasses, dental, $120 compression socks, incontinence supplies and certain vaccines.
“Most are earning between $14,000 and $18,000 per year, said Martin.
“That works out to $1,500 per month and $600 just for rent. It doesn’t leave you a lot.”
Martin said government might talk the talk about keeping seniors in their home but it isn’t giving them the right tools.
"Giving us a couple hundred to start a bingo at the parish hall is not good enough.” — Martin
She said if a senior fell and broke their hip because you need glasses they can’t afford, they would go in longterm care where they’d be eligible for certain benefits.
“Really they’re just giving lip service to seniors and saying they’ll eventually die off,” Martin said.
She said coming into the federal election, she wants politicians to outline what they’re going to do to help seniors with canes, walkers and vaccines, health care plans and an increase in the old age security pension.
“We need a lobby to go to government and say ‘We cannot live like this.’ Giving us a couple hundred to start a bingo at the parish hall is not good enough.”
The launch of SOS takes place 1.30 p.m. at St. Patrick’s Community Centre, 6 Patrick St. in St. John’s.
“We are presently gathering stories of poverty and deprivation and demand that more attention and resources are utilized for seniors, particularly women, who have worked hard all their lives and now find themselves viewed as charity cases utilizing food banks and community shelters,” the Marys said in their news release about SOS.
“We have talked to others like ourselves working as cleaning women, retail clerks, baristas and home care workers. It’s time to remove the shame of this impoverishment and bring dignity and equality to our most invisible and worthy citizens, many of whom have spent much of their lives in caring for their families with their labour uncompensated.”