Canada’s most populous province is getting grayer. Statistics Canada reported that almost 20 percent of Ontarians were over the age of 65 in 2016. That’s a number that’s projected to keep growing in the future too. At the time we updated this article in March of 2022, a 2018 survey showed that the number of people between the ages of 55-64 was 1,787, 820 and 2,374,210 were over 65.
Are you someone over the age of 65? Maybe you’re approaching the start of your golden years. You might even be caring for an elderly parent, helping them manage their finances and health.
If so, you’re interested in what senior benefits are available in Ontario. The good news is there are many programs you or your loved one may qualify for.
This guide will walk you through some of the major programs in Ontario. We’ll go over health care and health programs for low-income seniors, as well as financial help. We’ll also look at some of the options you have to supplement Ontario’s social assistance programs.
Basic Health Care with OHIP
If you’re retiring soon, you may wonder what will happen to your healthcare coverage under OHIP.
Employer-sponsored benefits often end when you turn 65 or retire. OHIP continues to offer coverage for senior Ontarians.
Like all Ontarians, you’re entitled to coverage for:
- Hospital Stays
- Visits to the doctor
- Some medical devices
Senior benefits in Ontario go farther. As someone over the age of 65, you’ll also qualify for vision care coverage. This will pay for trips to the optometrist every year.
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Senior Benefits for Prescription Medications
Health benefits for seniors in Ontario extend to prescription medications as well. When you turn 65, you’ll qualify for the Ontario Drug Benefit program.
This program lists over 4,000 medications the province will pay for. You’ll pay an annual deductible of $100. The province will then cover most of the cost for prescriptions, depending on your income.
The government offers a $2 co-payment, which helps low-income seniors. They’ll pay as little as $2 for their prescription. High-income seniors will pay $6.11.
Some pharmacies don’t charge the $2 co-pay. Low-income seniors will pay nothing, and high-income seniors will pay $4.11.
If a medication isn’t covered under the ODB, you may be able to apply to the Trillium Benefit Program.
Connecting with Healthcare Professionals
The province also offers programs to help you connect with healthcare professionals. Health Care Connect helps you locate a doctor or nurse practitioner if you don’t already have one.
Telehealth Ontario can put you in contact with experts when you need advice. You simply need to call and you’ll be connected with a registered nurse. Your call is completely confidential.
ConnexOntario is another service designed to provide information and referrals. This program connects you with mental health and addictions support. Some providers offer specialized services for older adults.
Regional Geriatric Programs offer help to seniors who have complex health needs.
The province’s HealthLine website offers listings of local health and community services. Select your area and find service providers near you.
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Accessing Medical Devices
Whether you need a cane or hearing aids, there may be help available for you. The Assistive Devices Program helps those who have a long-term physical disability. It provides access to personalized medical devices.
OHIP doesn’t offer coverage for many assistive devices. This program may be the best bet for seniors who have physical disabilities.
The province also offers senior assistance for those who need to make changes to a home or vehicle. Adding a wheelchair ramp or remodeling a walk-in shower could help you stay in your own home longer. For a more detailed explanation on the Assistive Devices Program, be sure to check out our article here.
The Government of Ontario provides information on how to find housing for seniors. Common types of housing include nursing homes and retirement homes.
Many seniors choose other housing arrangements. Some may rent or lease a dwelling. Others may choose to live in an adult lifestyle community or co-operative housing.
Supportive housing programs and services are offered through the Local Health Integration Networks. These networks coordinate care services to help seniors in their own homes. They also provide information about other housing options.
Help for seniors with low income may be available through one of the province’s affordable housing programs.
Helping Seniors Stay Active
Another way the government offers health benefits for seniors is by encouraging active living. The government provides tips and guidelines for seniors. They also run the Ontario Senior Games, for athletes 55 and over.
Most communities provide active living, health, and wellness programs. Some of their program offerings will be tailored for seniors. Some may even offer specialized programming for people with conditions like Alzheimer’s.
You can visit your local Seniors Active Living Centre to find out more about what they offer. The website 211ontario.ca also offers local listings.
Other Community Care Programs
Local Health Integration Networks coordinate a wide range of services for older people. They may connect you with foot care services or social programs at a seniors’ center.
Transportation services, friendly visiting services, and more can help seniors live better lives.
After you retire, you’ll likely draw on social assistance for part of your income. For many seniors, this is a mix of federal government programs and provincial payments.
Most Canadians will draw on the Canada Pension Plan or CPP. Ontario recently introduced a new pension plan for Ontarians as well.
Canadians can also apply for Old Age Security and the guaranteed income supplement. The GIS helps seniors with low income.
Ontario senior benefits mostly apply to tax credits. If you own your own home, for example, you may be able to get help with your property tax. If you own land, you may be able to defer the taxes.
Is It Enough?
As Ontario’s population gets grayer, many are concerned about the quality of life for seniors. Many seniors have fixed incomes. They may also find they have high medical costs, even with more support from the government.
Around seven percent of Canadian seniors live in poverty. Some estimates put this figure much higher. The numbers have been climbing in recent years.
Many seniors across Canada also report they have trouble affording their prescription medications. Ontario is one of the best provinces for seniors, but many people still struggle with high medical costs.
Many Canadians also report they don’t have retirement savings. This could mean the situation is only going to get worse. People worry current programs will be strained by the number of seniors who will be drawing on CPP and expanded healthcare.
This is a worrisome situation for many Canadians and their loved ones. The fact of the matter seems to be Ontario senior benefits just aren’t enough.
Securing Your Future
There are some things you can do to add to your senior assistance check and other benefits.
One is to save for retirement early. Having private savings can supplement your income. It also makes you less reliant on programs like the CPP.
Another easy way to secure your future is to invest in supplemental health insurance. While OHIP offers basic coverage, it isn’t enough for most Ontarians.
A private plan could help seniors manage the costs of their medications. It could also help them pay for medical services like physiotherapy.
The right healthcare insurance can help you live a better life. Whether it’s help for in-home care or prescriptions, a good plan goes a long way.
Another consideration for seniors is life insurance. Term life insurance is popular with younger people, but it may not be the right choice for older people. Instead, consider whole-life life insurance options.
These policies are more expensive, but they can be cashed in. You can use them to help fund retirement or to pay for a medical emergency. They’re an excellent tool to have in your financial portfolio.
Explore Your Options
One of the best things seniors and their families can do is explore their options. Do some research.
Meet with local care providers to discover what programs are available to you. Your Local Health Integration Network is a great starting place.
You should also meet with professional experts. An accountant or a bookkeeper, for example, may be able to help you find tax savings. An insurance broker could help you explore life insurance and health care options.
Build a network of family, friends, care providers, and professionals. They can help you navigate the system. With their help, you can live a better, healthier life.
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Better Living in Retirement
Ontario offers a whole host of senior benefits. Seniors in Ontario benefit from social assistance in health care and other areas.
Even with this support network, some seniors will find it a struggle to make ends meet. Luckily, you have options to improve your physical and financial well-being.
Do want to know more about your options for life insurance and health insurance in Ontario? If so, contact us for a quote. We can help you find affordable plans for your lifestyle.