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The Experience and Mitigation of Material Hardships among Canadian Older Adults. A Comparative Analysis with Other Age Groups

Maude Pugliese, Anne-Marie Séguin, Paul Fortier

Research Framework : In a waning welfare state context, older adults’ support needs are often unmet through public services. This insight calls for research on alternative strategies mobilized by older adults to mitigate their vulnerabilities.

Objectives : This article focuses on material hardships, defined as difficulties covering basic consumption needs. It explores the prevalence of those issues and the various coping strategies among older adults in comparison to patterns observed in younger age groups. We also attend to differences across region types, ranging from metropolitan centers to rural areas.

Methodology : Data are from the General Social Survey (Statistics Canada, 2011). Regression analyses compare the odds of experiencing material hardships and of employing several coping strategies to overcome this difficulty across age and regional categories.

Results : Older adults exhibit a lower risk of experiencing material hardships compared to younger groups. When living through material hardships, they are less likely to identify financial support from close social ties as a coping strategy and more likely to report alternative ones than younger persons. Financial support from social networks is also less likely outside of metropolitan areas as compared to within them.

Conclusions : Older adults are at a lower risk of material hardships, but when facing them they deploy a different set of coping strategies compared to younger groups, reflecting divergences in constraints and available resources across age groups.

Contribution : The literature on aging populations has thus far paid little attention to material hardships and economic vulnerability among older adults, focusing instead on their health-related difficulties. This study helps to fill in this gap. We also contribute to research on kin- and friend-based networks of support by stressing that, during moments of need, receiving monetary support is less common among older adults than in younger age groups.