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December 2005
Vol. 6, no. 12

Perspectives on Labour and Income

Shifts in spending patterns of older Canadians
Raj K. Chawla

  • Households with a reference person aged 55 and older were spending more of their income dollar on personal consumption and income tax in 2003 than in 1982. As a result, their savings fell to 4 cents per dollar from 13 cents.
  • As households age, income drops steeply because of loss in earnings whereas the drop in personal consumption is more gradual.
  • Couples exhibited spending patterns closer to those of unattached men rather than women. Among unattached individuals, the spending gap between men and women narrowed between 1982 and 2003—largely because of improved income levels for older women.
  • Older households spent more on health in 2003 than in 1982. Most of the money went for prescription drugs, other medical equipment and services, and dental and eye care.
  • Older households receiving all of their income from government transfers spent most of their consumption dollar on shelter and food, ranging from 52 to 57 cents in 2003 and 58 to 65 cents in 1982. In both years, those in the 75-plus group spent more on gifts and contributions than on personal care or recreation.

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Raj K. Chawla is with the Labour and Household Surveys Analysis Division. He can be reached at (613) 951-6901 or

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