Recession places pressure on pensioner budgets: New research

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Older people across the island of Ireland are increasingly balancing budgets and priorities between basic necessities, keeping their houses warm and paying bills finds new research published today (Thursday 19th January) by the Centre for Ageing Research and Development in Ireland (CARDI).

The research, carried out by Professor Paddy Hillyard, Queen’s University Belfast and Dr Demi Patsios, Bristol University, uses data from before and during the recession to show 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. It finds that while single pensioners in Northern Ireland remain worst off, living standards for couples in Northern Ireland (NI) and the Republic of Ireland (ROI) have worsened due to the recession.

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 heat adequately their homes as fuel poverty disproportionately impacts on the health and living conditions of this group.” The researchers developed set of four comparable factors of affordability across the island of Ireland: warm house, utility arrears, hire purchase/loan arrears and annual holidays to create a harmonised All-Ireland Living Standards Index for older people. Using this they found both single pensioners (NI & ROI) and pensioner couples (NI) are finding it more difficult to keep their homes warm. There has been an increase in the proportion of single pensioners in NI unable to keep their house warm, from 4% to 5.5%. In ROI, there has been a similar increase of 2.4% to 4.7% between 2007 and 2009. In NI, the numbers of pensioner couples struggling with heating their home has more than trebled from 2.2% to 6.9%.

The research also found that older people, North and South are reducing discretionary spending. Annual holidays appear to have been one of the first things which older people have cut back on. The proportion of pensioner couples who were unable to afford an annual holiday increased from 14.8% to 19.3% in NI and from 14.9% to 26.3% in ROI.

Dr Roger O’Sullivan, Director of CARDI, says, “This timely research highlights the impact the recession is having across the island of Ireland. This report underlines those older people who are most at risk are single pensioners and confirms the high dependence of many older people on state benefits. ”

Full research report Inequalities in old age, Ireland, North and South

CARDI Research briefing

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