Seniors Benefits in British Columbia: What You Need to Know


Fact Checked

Living comfortably in BC’s picturesque landscapes is a dream, but what about the high cost of living?  

This article discusses government benefits designed for seniors 65 and older, the eligibility requirements, and how to apply today.

Key Takeaways

  • Based on a report by Seniors Advocate BC, half of BC seniors live on $30,750 in annual income or below.
  • Monthly GIS support is available for low-income seniors, varying based on the level of federal OAS assistance received and household income.
  • The CPP Retirement Pension is available for both employed and self-employed and is directly related to the amount and length of your contribution.
  • Seniors 65 and older can tap into Canada’s monthly OAS pension, maxing out at $784.67 as of the Jan-March 2024 quarter.

What is Considered Low Income for Seniors in BC?

Figuring out what “enough” looks like for retirement income is tricky. Terms like “low income” can be confusing, especially since seniors face different challenges depending on their expenses.

Let’s imagine dividing all BC seniors into two groups, with half earning more than a certain amount and half earning less. Many seniors—half of them—actually live on $30,750 per year or less, based on a report by Seniors Advocate BC. That’s the “median” income—the middle point dividing both halves.

The average income, however, tells a different story: $46,466 per year. Why the big difference? Because a few individuals with very high incomes are pushing the average up. This doesn’t reflect the reality for most seniors.

Another key point: women earn considerably less than men, with male incomes about 40% higher. This likely reflects differences in past career paths and participation rates.

Here’s the takeaway:

  • Focus on the median income to understand what most low-income seniors earn.
  • Many seniors in BC struggle. Half live on $30,750 or less, which is significantly lower than the average.
  • A gender gap exists. Women’s incomes are lower than men’s, likely due to historical factors.

The Benefits Available for Low-Income Seniors in BC

British Columbia Senior’s Supplement Program

The province offers the Senior’s Supplement as an extra payment to enhance the Government of Canada’s Guaranteed Income Supplement.

Eligible low-income residents of British Columbia receiving GIS, or the Allowance through the Old Age Security pension program, receive this monthly supplement.

You might qualify if you’re:

  • A low-income senior 65 or older who gets federal assistance.
  • Aged 60-65 and get the federal spouse’s allowance.

Just remember, you don’t need to apply. If you qualify, the money will automatically show up in your bank account, the same way you get your regular income assistance.

Here’s what you need to know:

  • You must live in B.C. (vacationing for up to 6 months is okay, but if you’re moving permanently, let them know).
  • The amount you get each month depends on how much federal assistance you already receive.
  • It’s about an extra $1-$99 monthly for single seniors or $2-$220 per month for couples (slightly different for spouses on the federal allowance).

So, if you’re a low-income senior in B.C. and already get some federal help, keep an eye out for this extra boost to your income.

Canada Pension Plan (CPP)

The Canada Pension Plan is a core part of Canada’s retirement pension system. Your pension amount depends on your contributions during your working years and their duration.

Contributors to the CPP, whether employed or self-employed, are eligible for a monthly retirement pension. This taxable payment, which complements Old Age Security, replaces a portion of income during retirement and continues for life. 

The maximum monthly pension at age 65 in 2024 is $1,364.60. Regardless of work history, everyone contributing to the plan receives this benefit based on their earnings and contributions. An estimate of monthly CPP retirement pension payments can be obtained through the My Service Canada Account. 

It is advisable to apply in advance of your desired pension start date, which can range from age 60 to 70. Unlike some senior benefits, CPP is not subject to income-based clawbacks, making it accessible to retirees with varying income levels.

CPP Survivor’s Pension

The CPP survivor’s pension is a monthly payment given to the legal spouse or common-law partner of someone who has passed away.

To qualify, you need to be legally married to the deceased or be their common-law partner. A common-law partner, as per CPP rules, is someone you’ve lived with in a conjugal relationship for at least a year. You may need to fill out specific forms to prove your common-law relationship.

Key information to remember: 

  • If you are a separated legal spouse with no common-law partner for the deceased, you may still qualify.
  • If you lost a survivor’s benefit due to remarriage before 1987, you might be eligible again—contact CPP for details.
  • If you’ve been widowed more than once, only the larger survivor’s pension will be paid. Even if you remarry, your pension will continue.

Old Age Security (OAS)

The Old Age Security (OAS) pension is a monthly payment for people aged 65 and older. You’ll get it whether you’ve worked before or are still working, and you don’t need to make any contributions.

There are four types of OAS benefits:

  1. Basic OAS Pension
  2. Guaranteed Income Supplement
  3. Allowance
  4. Allowance for the Survivor

Here’s a table showing the maximum monthly OAS pension amount:

AgeMaximum Monthly Payment AmountMaximum Income Recovery Threshold to Receive OAS
65 to 74$713.34Less than $142,609
75+$784.67Less than $148,179

Your first OAS payment comes either the month after you turn 65 or on a specific date you choose. You can also delay it for up to 60 months after turning 65, and the longer you wait, the bigger your monthly pension will be.

OAS payments follow the same schedule as CPP, and adjustments are made every quarter based on the Consumer Price Index. 

Moreover, these payments are going up by 0.8% for the January–March 2024 quarter, reflecting changes in the cost of living. The government reviews OAS payments four times yearly (January, April, July, and December) to ensure they stay in line with rising costs.

Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS)

Low-income Old Age Security pensioners can receive additional monthly support through the non-taxable Guaranteed Income Supplement.

See the tables below for the maximum GIS amounts based on your marital status and annual income from January to March 2024:

For Single, Widowed, or Divorced Pensioners:

Pensioner StatusMaximum Monthly Payment AmountAnnual Income Threshold
Single, Widowed, or Divorced Pensioner$1,065.47Less than $21,624

For Pensioners with a Spouse or Common-Law Partner:

Recipient’s Spouse/Common-law Partner StatusMaximum Monthly Payment AmountMaximum Annual Income Threshold
Receives Full OAS Pension$641.35Less than $28,560
Receives the Allowance$641.35Less than $39,984
Does Not Receive OAS Pension$1,065.47Less than $51,840

Important points to remember:

  • Eligibility: The GIS is based on income and is open to Canadians meeting specific criteria.
  • Enrollment: Even if you receive OAS, you might need to apply for GIS, as automatic enrollment isn’t guaranteed.
  • First payment: Your first payment depends on your income and marital status and starts after you turn 65.
  • Application process: Applying for GIS requires a written application form.
  • Payment options: Choose between receiving your payment by cheque or direct deposit to a Canadian bank account.
  • Payment dates: GIS payments coincide with the CPP and OAS schedules.

Remember, the GIS is there to help low-income seniors. If you believe you qualify, don’t hesitate to apply.

How to Apply for Senior Benefits in BC

1. Choose your pension start date: Decide when you want your Old Age Security pension to begin. You can start receiving it as early as age 60, but delaying it will result in a higher monthly amount.

2. Submit your application: Apply for your OAS and other eligible benefits online through “My Service Canada Account” or by requesting a paper application.

3. Tracking your application: Monitor your application status online through your “My Service Canada Account” or call Service Canada directly for updates.

Additional Tips:

  • Consider applying for the Guaranteed Income Supplement if you have a low income. You can apply for both OAS and GIS simultaneously.
  • Gather all necessary documents, such as proof of Canadian citizenship and residency, beforehand.
  • Don’t hesitate to contact Service Canada if you have any questions or need assistance with the application process.

Remember, securing your government benefits can significantly impact your financial well-being in retirement. 


Who qualifies for BC Senior Supplement?

If you are a low-income senior receiving Old Age Security (OAS) and Guaranteed Income Supplement allowances, you may qualify for this program. Additionally, eligibility for this payment extends to individuals aged 60 to 65 who receive the federal spouse’s allowance, and membership is automatic.

What is the average income of seniors in BC?

Most seniors in BC don’t make a lot of money. In 2019, they earned an average of $30,750 a year, which is much less than the $51,170 that middle-aged people made. In fact, one in four seniors lives on less than $21,000 a year.

How much do you get for the old-age pension in BC?

The current OAS pension in BC tops out at $784.67 per month (January to March 2024). Stay informed about future adjustments and maximize your income by checking eligibility for the GIS and BC’s Senior’s Supplement programs.

Do seniors get the BC Recovery Benefit?

Yes, seniors can qualify for the BC Recovery Benefit. This one-time financial assistance helps individuals and families, including seniors, cope with unexpected economic hardships.



Gravatar for Enoch Omololu, MSc (Econ)
Enoch Omololu, MSc (Econ)

Enoch Omololu, personal finance expert, author, and founder of Savvy New Canadians, has written about money matters for over 10 years. Enoch has an MSc (Econ) degree in Finance and Investment Management from the University of Aberdeen Business School and has completed the Canadian Securities Course. His expertise has been highlighted in major publications like Forbes, Globe and Mail, Business Insider, CBC News, Toronto Star, Financial Post, CTV News, TD Direct Investing, Canadian Securities Exchange, and many others. Enoch is passionate about helping others win with their finances and recently created a practical investing course for beginners. You can read his full author bio.

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