Why we need to address financial hardship of older people

We’re used to the media and some politicians talking about the affluent older population and the generational iniquities with younger generations losing out. The risk is this pushes out the important discussion about poverty affecting older people in the UK. Earlier this year there was a flurry of reports  showing the prevalence of poverty. In London the Greater London Authority “State of London” report (State of London – London Datastore) revealed that material deprivation (that’s the lack of access to basic items and services supporting quality of life) is much more prevalent among pensioners in London than other parts of the UK, including even leafy outer London areas. Of course, there is the noticeable trend is that inequalities within older generations are some of the most extreme in society. Rich pensioners have seen their wealth increase, but the poorest older people experienced a drop in their wealth.

New research from Independent Age has revealed that the cost-of-living crisis is causing many people over 65 to turn to loans and credit cards to make ends meet, as they keep their financial worries from their family. In a survey of more than a thousand over 65s the charity Independent Age has found that 1 in 7 (14%) are using loans to survive, as the cost of bills, food and fuel are at  their highest levels for a decade. The survey also revealed concerns about the future – as many pensioners on a fixed income, more than half are concerned about their financial stability in the year ahead. And the charity also found more than half of people of all ages in the UK believe this payment is inadequate to cover basic needs.

But the problem is not just about those over the pension age and there’s a need to address the issues of financial hardship facing some over 50s to prevent fuelling more pensioner poverty. The evidence is that pensioners who enter poverty didn’t have high incomes in their working lives and those groups who are at greater risk of poverty in later life also have greater risk of entering poverty past State Pension Age. This points to better help for over 50s who are on low incomes or unemployed. In particular those  who have left the workforce due to ill health or disability or to look after their families are much more financially vulnerable.