Viewpoint—Suffering in Silence cont’d

B.C’s changing demographics:

British Columbia has the healthiest population of all provinces and territories in Canada.
It also has the highest life expectancy, behind only two of Canada’s international peers – Switzerland and Japan. British Columbians’ long lifespans are reflected in figures from Statistics Canada, which show that between 2013 and 2016, the number of people over 65 in B.C. increased to 850,424 from 752,128 – a 13% rise in just three years. The number of seniors in the province is increasing not just in real terms, but as a percentage of the population as well- to 17.9% in 2016 from 16.4% in 2013.

B.C.’s aging population presents a wide range of new considerations for public policy, including how to achieve the best possible outcomes in health care, security, safety, and lifetime learning. The demographic shift we’re already witnessing will require careful planning at all levels of government and across society more generally.

One major issue is how a growing population of seniors can effectively and safely manage their finances and protect themselves from fraud and financial abuse.

As people age, faculties can start to diminish, and the ability to focus sharply changes with time and health. A recent study by the Centre for Retirement Research at Boston College found that “declining cognition, a common occurrence among individuals in their 80s, is associated with a significant decline in financial literacy.” The study also found that “large declines in cognition and financial literacy have little effect on an elderly individual’s confidence in their financial knowledge, and essentially no effect on their confidence in managing their finances,” While it’s only natural for people to exaggerate their strengths and downplay their weaknesses, there may be negative consequences to this when it comes to cognition and financial literacy.

Along with the possibility of cognitive decline, it’s also more likely for seniors than younger people to face some form of reduction in mobility, which may prevent them from accessing in-person financial services on their own.

These factors- an aging population, an increased likelihood of reduced physical ability, evidence of a decline in financial literacy in later life and no loss of confidence among seniors in being able to manage their finances- significantly increase the risk of financial abuse.