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Federal Income Benefits
for Seniors

With the current economic situation, seniors and their families are looking for ways to make the most of their income and their assets. Low-income seniors face even greater challenges. We encourage everyone to become aware of seniors' benefits available to them.

First, a reminder about a previous ElderWise Info discussing "Tax Matters for Seniors." We noted the value of filing a tax return:

"Filing a tax return can make a real economic difference, especially to low income seniors. Many government programs that help low income seniors require that you file a tax return. In some cases, the application for the program can be submitted with your return."

The Old Age Security Program is the foundation piece for seniors' benefits in Canada. The following information is adapted from the Government of Canada's webpage Services for Seniors Guide:;=0

What is the Old Age Security (OAS) Program?

This program provides a modest pension at age 65 if you have lived in Canada for at least 10 years after turning 18. If you are a low-income senior, you may be eligible for other benefits as early as age 60.

The OAS program offers four types of benefits:

The Old Age Security Pension

If you are 65 or older and are a Canadian citizen or a legal resident of Canada, you should apply for the Old Age Security pension. You may be entitled to receive this pension even if you are still working or have never worked.

You should apply for the Old Age Security pension six months before you turn 65. Normally, you must apply on your own behalf. If you are applying for someone else, please contact the Income Security Program for more information (see telephone numbers below).

The Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS)

The GIS provides additional money, on top of the Old Age Security pension, to low-income seniors living in Canada. To be eligible for the GIS benefit, you must be receiving the Old Age Security pension.

Because this supplement is based on marital status and income, you may qualify now, even if you did not qualify in a previous year.

The Allowance

If you are 60 to 64 and your spouse or common-law partner receives the Old Age Security pension and is eligible for the Guaranteed Income Supplement, you should apply for the Allowance.

The Allowance for the Survivor

If you are 60 to 64, have little or no income, and your spouse or common-law partner has died, you may qualify for the Allowance for the Survivor.

How can you receive OAS benefits?

Old Age Security benefits do not start automatically. You must apply for them. For more information,:

  • Call toll-free 1-800-277-9914 in Canada and the United States.
  • If you have a hearing or speech impairment and use a teletypewriter (TTY),
    call 1-800-255-4786.
  • If you live outside Canada and the United States, contact Service Canada at: 1-613-957-1954 (collect calls accepted)

Have your Canadian Social Insurance Number at hand.

This website has more contact options and details:

Related Reading:

Tax Matters for Seniors 

Talking About Finances

Information on health, housing and relationship issues in the
 ElderWise newsletter archive

What every Canadian with aging parents needs to know: Read our full length book:  Your Aging Parents

Vol. 5, No. 3
� ElderWise Publishing 2009.
You have permission to reprint this or any other ElderWise INFO article, provided you reproduce it in its entirety, acknowledge our copyright, and include the following statement: Originally published by ElderWise Publishing, a division of ElderWise Inc. We provide clear, concise and practical direction to Canadians with aging parents. Visit us at and subscribe to our FREE e-newsletter.


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