By Max Clarke
One in ten pensioners struggle financially while half reported they were ‘just getting by’, according to research from Age UK.
Despite recent signs of revival in the UK economy, including falling inflation, a drop in unemployment and a narrowing trade deficit, the elderly continue to be squeezed financially.
The survey of over 1,200 over 60s also revealed that nearly one in five pensioners had cut back on their heating over the winter months in order to make ends meet. This is particularly worrying in the face of the extra 25,000 older people dying during the winter months in recent years. Among poorer pensioners, one in five say they are going out less in order to save money, and over a third are buying cheaper or less food.
“At a time when so many people are struggling financially, it is unacceptable that vital benefits are failing to reach some of the poorest and most vulnerable older people in our society,” commented Michelle Mitchell, Age UK’s Charity Director.
Shockingly one in ten pensioners report having outstanding debts such as a mortgage, credit card or bank loan, with levels of debt being higher among younger pensioners. These figures are slightly higher than results from a similar survey carried out in 2008, which showed one in twelve pensioners were in debt. This is a worrying indication of the lengths to which many older people are going to stay afloat financially.
The majority of pensioners live on low to middle incomes and many have been hit hard by the rising cost of food, which has shot up by 6.2 per cent and energy which has increased by 4.2 per cent over the last year . Pensioners are hit particularly hard by climbing inflation rates because they spend a larger percentage of their budget on food and fuel, as shown in Age UK’s Enterprises Silver RPI.
Despite just under half of all pensioners being entitled to pension credit — a top up for people on low incomes — a third of people don’t claim it. Our survey shows that overall only 22 per cent are claiming it although this rises to just under half for poorer pensioners. The vast majority of people surveyed said that claiming pensioner benefits had improved their quality of life or helped them worry less about making ends meet.