Belfast Telegraph

Older people at risk of poverty

One in 10 elderly people have been at risk of poverty, official figures reveal.

A Central Statistics Office (CSO) survey showed 9.7% of over-65s were living on the breadline in 2011 - up from 8.7% the year before.

The figures also revealed that average weekly incomes among the elderly dropped by 5% from 2009 to 2011.

The average fell from 428.86 euros in 2009 to 407.28 euros in 2011.

The CSO Survey on Income and Living Conditions Thematic Report on the Elderly showed that while the rate of elderly people at risk of poverty increased slightly, it had fallen significantly from 27% in 2004.

Despite this overall drop, the deprivation rate rose from 9.8% in 2009 to 11.3% in 2011.

More than half of the over-65s surveyed revealed they suffered from a chronic illness or health problem, but only 7% described their health as "bad or very bad".

In 2011, 55% of Ireland's elderly population was female, while just over a third were widowed, divorced or separated.

Around 52% of the elderly were retired and just over 7% were still at work.

Benefits accounted for the most significant source of income for the over-65s. In 2011, social transfers made up nearly two-thirds of the average person's total income.

Age Action said it was concerned but not surprised by the figures and warned pensioners are being hit with even more outgoings, including the property tax and trebling of the prescription charge.

The charity claimed older people were forced to choose between food and fuel during the pro-longed winter and Spring this year.

Eamon Timmins, spokesman, said a 5% drop in income combined with the rise in poverty levels is only part of the difficulties which many older people currently face.

"On the other side of the equation there are new charges and rising prices which have to be met from these declining incomes," said Mr Timmins.

"These increased taxes, charges and costs have escalated since these statistics were gathered, leaving many older people seriously struggling to make ends meet."

The CSO report showed that among those hit hardest are those living alone, women and those living in rural areas.

Mr Timmins said older people have been hit with rising financial pressures in the last 18 months.

"Property tax, a trebling of the prescription charge and soaring energy prices are just some of the increased costs which have been introduced since 2011, with older people having to pay them from a declining income," he continued.

"The increased costs are on unavoidable elements of their cost of living - a roof over their head, essential medication and heat.

"The cumulative effect of multiple cuts on one side and rising cost and taxes on the other, is hurting many older people and must be addressed by the Government in the October budget."

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