Anglophone senior citizens in Quebec say their limited language skills prevent them from fully participating in society and getting the help they need.

The Quebec Community Groups Network conducted the study by analyzing census data and surveying 835 anglophones across the province.

The three-year study showed 70 per cent of Quebec anglophones aged 55 and older did not think they had the language skills necessary to fully participate in society.

Twenty-seven per cent said their French was so poor they needed assistance to communicate with bureaucrats or officials providing public services.

Women in that age group feel especially cut off, said Pocock.

“They grew up in the pre-101 era and so through no fault of their own, they lived in English, they went to school, they didn't have the opportunities for immersion and that opportunity  to work as much as today,” said Joanne Pocock, head researcher on the project.

Pocock said this could cause problems as people age and require more medical care.

"We have a high representation of seniors who are no doubt dependent on services and support," said Dr. Pocock.

As a rule of thumb those with the weakest skills in the French language were over the age of 75, female, or immigrants.

Those with the worst French skills tended to have arrived in Quebec before Bill 101 came into effect and so learned very little French in school, or had no access to French education for other reasons.

Many were housewives who raised children and did not need to interact with francophones in the workplace, and so never developed any skill in the language.

"Given that English-speaking seniors are living longer, they have a greater proportion of frail elderly, and the greater proportion of that group is women," said Dr. Pocock.

"They are women, they are not bilingual and they're having difficulty living in Quebec today."

The study indicates that one-third expected to move within the next five years, with many saying their primary reason for moving was to seek services in English or because they needed more support, but only seven percent of those who planned to move wanted to leave the province.

Other findings

  • 1,058,250 anglophones live in Quebec
  • 25.4% of anglophones are 55 and over
  • 37.7% of anglophones in the Eastern Townships are 55 and over