A & O's History

In 1954, the City of Winnipeg was awakened to the needs of its most senior citizens.

New developments in medicine had begun extending people's life spans and increased the number of people living into their sixties and up – including a large ratio who came through the depression years when making or saving money was difficult. 

The Welfare Council of Greater Winnipeg undertook a major study of this new, older population. Prompted in part by the fact that Winnipeg's aged population had almost doubled since 1941, the study was financed by The Winnipeg Foundation and was the first survey of its kind in any Canadian city. It was called Age and Opportunity, and became the agency's namesake.

This survey found that two thirds of all older adults in the region were living on incomes considered marginal or less. Interviewers reported on poverty, loneliness, and poor health in Winnipeg's older adult population: "Some people spoke of being unable to afford glasses and hearing aids," wrote one interviewer, "and that this cut them off from the world and likely produced the loneliness which was often noted."

These issues were very publicly underscored by an investigative series entitled "Life on Forty" for the Winnipeg Tribune. As a basis for the series, a reporter became a voluntary pensioner – living on $40 for one month in winter of 1955. The report described in detail the lifestyle of many pensioners trying to get by on this very small monthly income, including a dreary rooming house, which held so many Winnipeg older adults. The reporter-cum-pensioner spent most of his time in his room, lit only by one window and a single suspended electric light bulb. Eventually he ran out of money, and had to beg on the streets. This reporter's account of what it was like to live as a senior citizen drew increased attention to the issues faced by Winnipeg's older adults and accentuated the need for this 'Age and Opportunity' report.

The report was published in 1956, and on May 8, 1957 the first Age and Opportunity Bureau opened at 368 Colony Street.


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