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It all adds up, a new study suggests

It might be the fee for 90 minutes of parking at the doctor’s office or the occasional coffee and a muffin with Mom at Tim Hortons. It might just be the extra gas to take the kids to see Grandma at her retirement home on the weekend. Whether the expense is small or large, the trend remains clear: about two million Canadians are spending money to take care of their aging parents.

And it all adds up. In fact, a new study by two Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC) economists reveals it adds up to a whopping $33 billion a year for Canadians with a parent older than 65. The direct, out-of-pocket expenditures alone amount to more than $6 billion.

The bulk of the costs falls to those who can least afford them. As the CIBC study by Benjamin Tal and Royce Mendes shows, Canadians making $50,000 or less pay an average of $3,810 a year in out-of-pocket expenses for their aging parents. Those making $50,000-$99,000 spend an average of $3,600, and for those making more than $100,000, the expenses average $2,933.

Do high-income earners care less for their parents? No, the reality is simply that low-income Canadians tend to have parents with fewer means. “Their parents just don’t have sufficient funds to support themselves,” said Tal.

With the percentage of Canadians aged 65 and older set to grow from 17 per cent to 22 per cent by 2027, an increasing share of the burden for caring for aging parents will fall on low-income earners.

Tal and Mendes add that the direct costs pale in comparison to lost income. Almost a third of workers with parents over the age of 65 take time off work to care for them. These people sacrifice an average of 450 working hours a year, which translates into $27 billion of lost income or forgone vacation time. And, that doesn’t even take into account the reduced potential for job mobility or promotion that could be associated with taking that amount of time off from work.

The burden weighs heaviest on low-income earners, especially women, who tend to take 30 per cent more time off than men caring for an aging parent.

(The CIBC report is based on the results of an online poll conducted between March 16 and 20 among 3,034 randomly selected adult Canadians who are Angus Reid Forum panelists. A probabilistic sample of this size would yield a margin of error of plus or minus 1.7 per cent, 19 times out of 20. The results have been statistically weighted according to education, age, gender, region, and language in the census data.)

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