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Can Canadian Seniors on Public Pensions Afford a Nutritious Diet?*

  • Rebecca J. Green (a1), Patricia L. Williams (a1) (a2), C. Shanthi Johnson (a3) (a4) and Ilya Blum (a5)

This study examined whether Canada's public pensions (Old Age Security and Canada Pension Plan) provided adequate income for seniors living in Nova Scotia in 2005 to afford a basic nutritious diet. Monthly incomes were compared to essential monthly expenses for four household scenarios: (a) married couple, 80 years and 78 years, in urban Nova Scotia; (b) single male, 77 years in rural Nova Scotia; (c) a couple, 70 years and 65 years, in rural Nova Scotia; (d) widowed female, 85 years, in urban Nova Scotia. The monthly food costs for the four households were CAN$313.32, $193.83, $316.71, and $150.89, respectively. Results showed that both single-member households lacked the necessary funds for a nutritious diet, while living with a partner seemed to protect against inadequate financial resources. These findings illustrate the need to improve Canada's retirement systems to ensure all seniors have adequate financial resources to meet their basic needs—including nutritious food—prevent chronic disease, and ultimately improve quality of life.


La présente étude a évalué si les pensions publiques du Canada (Sécurité de la vieillesse et Régime de pension du Canada) fournissaient aux aînés vivant en Nouvelle-Écosse (N.-É.) un revenu adéquat qui puisse leur permettre de bénéficier d'un régime alimentaire de base nutritif en 2005. Les revenus mensuels ont été comparés aux dépenses mensuelles essentielles de quatre types de ménages: 1) couple marié, 80ans et 78ans, en milieu urbain en Nouvelle-Écosse; 2) homme célibataire, 77ans, en milieu rural en Nouvelle-Écosse; 3) couple, 70ans et 65ans, en milieu rural en Nouvelle-Écosse; 4) veuve, 85ans, en milieu urbain en Nouvelle-Écosse. Le coût mensuel des quatre ménages étaient respectivement de 313,32$, 193,83$, 316,71$ et 150,89$. Les résultats ont indiqué que le ménage de chacun des célibataires manquait des fonds nécessaires pour respecter un régime alimentaire nutritif, tandis que la vie avec un partenaire semblait protéger contre un manque de ressources financières adéquates. Ces résultats illustrent le besoin d'améliorer les régimes de retraite du Canada afin de s'assurer que tous les aînés aient des ressources financières qui leur permettent de subvenir à leurs besoins essentiels, notamment en matière d'obtention d'aliments nutritifs, de prévention des maladies chroniques, et d'amélioration finale de leur qualité de vie.

Corresponding author
Requests for offprints should be sent to:/Les demandes de tirés-à-part doivent être adressées à: Patricia L. Williams, Ph.D., P.Dt., Associate Professor and Canada Research Chair in Food Security and Policy Change, Department of Applied Human Nutrition, Mount Saint Vincent University, 166 Bedford Highway, Halifax, NS B3M 2J6, (
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This food-costing study was supported by a grant from Nova Scotia Department of Health Promotion and Protection. The authors would like to thank the partners of the Nova Scotia Participatory Food Security Projects, to whom the grant was provided: the Nova Scotia Nutrition Council, Atlantic Health Promotion Research Centre, and the collaborating Community Action Program for Children/Canada Prenatal Nutrition Program–funded Family Resource Centres/Projects of Nova Scotia. The authors would especially like to thank the Family Resource Centres/Projects and their participants and staff who were food costers and support people for this study. We are particularly grateful to Christine Johnson, Project Coordinator, and research assistants Amy MacDonald, Nadia Stokvis, Rita MacAulay, and Denise Russell, as well as the members of the provincial steering committee and food-costing working group. Special thanks to Pam Fancey for her careful review and helpful comments around constructing this article. The views expressed herein are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official policy of the Nova Scotia Department of Health Promotion and Protection.

Linked references
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This list contains references from the content that can be linked to their source. For a full set of references and notes please see the PDF or HTML where available.

B. Davis , & V. Tarasuk (1994). Hunger in Canada. Agriculture and Human Values, 11(4), 5057.

S.A. Quandt , & P. Rao (1999). Hunger and food security among older adults in a rural community. Human Organization, 58(1), 28.

S.A. Quandt , T.A. Arcury , J. McDonald , R.A. Bell , & M.Z. Vitolins (2001). Meaning and management of food security among rural elders. Journal of Applied Gerontology, 20(3), 356376.

V. Tarasuk (2005). Household food insecurity in Canada. Topics in Clinical Nutrition, 20(4), 299312.

W.S. Wolfe , C.M. Olson , A. Kendall , & E.A. Frongillo Jr (1998). Hunger and food insecurity in the elderly: It's nature and measurement. Journal of Aging and Health, 10(3), 327350.

W.S. Wolfe , C.M. Olson , A. Kendall , & E.A. Frongillo Jr (1996). Understanding food insecurity in the elderly: A conceptual framework. Journal of Nutrition Education, 28(2), 92100.

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Canadian Journal on Aging / La Revue canadienne du vieillissement
  • ISSN: 0714-9808
  • EISSN: 1710-1107
  • URL: /core/journals/canadian-journal-on-aging-la-revue-canadienne-du-vieillissement
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