Wednesday 7 December 2016

Rising costs lead to jump in older people suffering

Published 22/01/2012 | 05:00

New research highlights pensioners' growing inability to afford holidays or home heating

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Tens of thousands of pensioners can no longer afford to take an annual holiday and many, especially elderly singles, are having difficulty heating their homes, disturbing new research has revealed.

The study which charts the impact of the recession on the old, north and south of the border, is an indictment of the Fine Gael/Labour Government's pledge that the vulnerable would not pay for the sins of those who have driven the country to near bankruptcy and comes in the wake of the pensioner tax fiasco.

In his address to the nation Taoiseach Enda Kenny asked the electorate that he be "judged on creating jobs and protecting the vulnerable"

But Pensions Ombudsman Paul Kenny has revealed that pensioners had been deeply upset by the pensioners tax fiasco which led to tens of thousands of pensioners receiving tax demands in the post.

"They were not able to get through to the Revenue so they rang us and they were in tears," he said.

Now research, carried out by Professor Paddy Hillyard, Queen's University Belfast and Dr Demi Patsios, Bristol University shows just how cash-strapped Irish pensioners have become.

Using data from before and during the recession it shows that pensioners are being affected, particularly in the ability to keep their houses warm and cuts to discretionary spending on items such as annual holidays.

The recession is having a very real impact on senior households.

"Both single pensioners and pensioner couples are finding it more difficult to keep their homes warm. There has been an increase in the proportion of single pensioners in the North unable to keep their house warm from 4.0 per cent to 5.5 per cent. In the South the proportion has nearly doubled from 2.4 per cent in 2007 to 4.7 per cent in 2009," the report states.

The ability to afford an annual holiday is regarded as a key barometer of discretionary spending -- how much money people have to enjoy the little extras.

But the study found that while the proportion of single pensioners in the North who can't afford an annual holiday has gone down slightly, there has been a large increase in the South for this group from 13.3 per cent in 2007 to 40.5 per cent in 2009.

It means four out of 10 elderly singles can't afford even a modest break from home once a year.

The proportion of pensioner couples in both the North and the South who were unable to afford an annual holiday increased from 14.8 per cent to 19.3 per cent in the North and 14.9 per cent to 26.3 per cent in the South.

The changes suggest that the annual holiday is one of the first things on which pensioners cut back.

The number of pensioners in the South who cannot afford to pay their utility bills has also doubled since the recession began -- albeit from a very low base.

Another finding of the study is a rise in the number of pensioners who cannot afford to meet payments on hire purchase agreements.

Professor Hillyard says, "This study finds that while pensioners are coping with the recession in comparison to other groups, rising costs are increasingly placing pressure on older people's household budgets. A key area of concern is the number of older people unable to adequately heat their homes as fuel poverty disproportionately impacts on the health and living conditions of this group."

Dr Roger O'Sullivan, Director of the Centre for Ageing Research and Development in Ireland (CARDI) said , "This research highlights the impact the recession is having across the island of Ireland. It underlines those older people who are most at risk and confirms the high dependence of many older people on state benefits."

Sunday Independent

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