Advocacy group for older adults advises awareness to avoid financial hardship


BRIDGEWATER - Advocates for the region's older adult population says this is the time of year when they start receiving more calls to assist individuals who are experiencing affordability issues due the absence of pension cheques.

Generally, this happens because of an overall misunderstanding involving matters of taxation and income, suggested Chris Acomb, who led a community-based seniors' safety program out of Lunenburg County.

The older adults, or families of same, start noticing government-issued income supplements aren't arriving and the ability to purchase food, or cover the cost of electricity, has become more difficult.

In one recent case, Acomb said, an individual didn't realize filing income taxes is vital to get the Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS)

"Maybe the first time they don't notice the GIS doesn't come and then, next month, they're spending more money or don't have as much money and, before you know it, they have a problem," Acomb described.

Carole Hipwell, a part-time seniors' safety co-ordinator, said she encountered a circumstance of another individual who didn't know the complications of cashing in investments could have on pension income.

Acomb said sometimes there's an untrue assumption the government knows enough and will take care of things.

"We see enough people to know it's happening and it's happening more often than one might think," Acomb said in a an interview in recent weeks.

The Lunenburg County Seniors' Safety Program, one of more than a dozen such operations in the province, said missed payments, especially for low-income older adults, can have devastating impacts.

"There have been a couple of times where we helped people and they've gotten thousands of dollars back," Acomb added. "It's very important you get your taxes done so you can get everything you're entitled to."

The local seniors' safety agency, currently undergoing some staffing changes, partners with police and other groups and provides the confidential service through awareness campaigns, advocacy, community outreach projects, educational programs, community presentations. The organization is funded by municipal and provincial subsidies.

"There have been times when we have met seniors that haven't filed taxes for a variety of reasons, some feel its not needed because they're not working, sometimes its because they've lost track, forgotten, perhaps because of medical emergencies or they haven't been able to arrange it," Acomb noted in an email sent following the interview. "Other times it can happen because paperwork has been lost and it can all seem very overwhelming."

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