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Sam Boal / Photocall Ireland

Older people in poverty 'picking between eating and heating'

Advocacy groups say today’s CSO figures showing an increase in poverty among older people reflects the reality they see on the ground.

OLDER PEOPLE SAW a fall in their average income between 2009 and 2011, reversing an earlier upward trend, new data released today has shown.

In 2011, the average weekly income of an elderly person was €407.28, a drop of more than €20, according to the CSO. The data outlines that about 9.7 per cent of people over the age of 65 are at risk of poverty.

“It has been a perfect storm,” says Alone CEO Seán Moynihan. “These figures properly reflect what we’re finding on the ground. Winter is the busiest time of year for us and calls have been increasing 25 per cent  year-on-year but in June, we took the same amount of calls as we did last November.”

He also noted that the figures are two years behind and that there have been other changes since 2011.

“The pensions have held steady but the problem is that while older people’s income is fixed, the cost of living is going up. The basics such as fuel, medication and food are all increasing and, at the same time, services grants and supports are being cut or are harder to get.

There is a myth out there that older people have not been affected but that is not true. Some are literally being forced to pick between heating and eating.

Another support group, Age Action Ireland, says it is not surprised by the report, reiterating that “many older people seriously struggling to make ends meet”.

The CSO’s Thematic Report on the Elderly uses findings from the Survey on Income and Living Conditions from 2004, 2009, 2010 and 2011.  It shows that the consistent poverty rate among older people has risen from 1.1 per cent to 1.9 per cent between 2009 and 2011.  The deprivation rate has increased from 9.5 per cent to 11.3 per cent over the same period.

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