Forty-two per cent of those aged 70 and older living in private dwellings reported having one or more disabilities—double the rate for those aged 15 to 69. (Black Press Media file photo)

Canadians with disabilities disproportionately hit by COVID-19 pandemic

More than four out of 10 British Columbians aged 70 and up have various disabilities

A report warns the COVID-19 pandemic may have a disproportionate effect on individuals with disabilities.

“Canadians with disabilities may be disproportionately impacted as they may be more likely to have underlying health conditions, or to rely on outside caregivers or support to help with their daily lives,” it reads. “Physical distancing measures to slow the spread of COVID-19 may also increase the overall vulnerability of Canadians with disabilities.”

The report from Statistics Canada shows individuals aged 60 and older account for one-third of COVID-19 cases nationally, a group also more likely to have disabilities compared with younger age groups. Forty-two per cent of those aged 70 and older (some 1.4 million Canadians) living in private dwellings reported having one or more disabilities – double the rate for those aged 15 to 69 (20 per cent). For British Columbia, the figure was 44 per cent, slightly above the national average.

While local figures concerning individuals with disabilities were less readily available, the Saanich Peninsula ranks among the oldest regions in Canada. Individuals aged 60 and older account for 49.6 per cent of the population in Sidney, 42.4 per cent in North Saanich, and 34.1 per cent in Central Saanich.

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The report warns, among other things, about the effects of social isolation. “Isolation measures, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, may have an increased impact on the overall well-being of persons with disabilities,” it reads. “Over one-quarter (28 per cent) of Canadians reported living alone in 2016, making it the most common household type nationally. Among the 6.2 million Canadians aged 15 and older with disabilities in 2017, 1.3 million (21 per cent) reported that they lived alone.”

For Canadians with disabilities, ‘staying at home’ is not necessarily a new concept. According to Statistics Canada, just over 770,000 Canadians with disabilities considered themselves housebound because of their respective conditions.

Canadians with disabilities often lack the resources to stay in touch, at least virtually. While just over 90 per cent of Canadians used the Internet in 2018, about one-fifth of Canadians with disabilities said that they did not use the Internet, making it more challenging to stay informed and connected during the COVID-19 pandemic.


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