State of the (Older) Nation report shows impact of rising cost of living on older people

HARDSHIP: Geoff Pitt has seen many struggle to make ends meet. Picture: Lachlan Bence
HARDSHIP: Geoff Pitt has seen many struggle to make ends meet. Picture: Lachlan Bence

The rising cost of living is one of the top concerns for older people, according to a new study.

The State of the (Older) Nation 2018 report revealed one in four people over 50 are concerned about finances and one in 12 are struggling with overdue bills. 

Non-working renters are more likely than other older Australians to rate their quality of life as poor according to data released on Wednesday. 

Ballarat City Senior Citizens Centre president Geoff Pitt said he spoke with pensioners who were struggling to make ends meet every day. 

There a lot who get rent assistance but are still struggling to keep food on the table.

Geoff Pitt

“I turn 69 this year. I find it difficult to have any money left over to enjoy myself with. As to going out to tea, that is nearly impossible on the pension.”

Mr Pitt receives around $850 a fortnight on the age pension. He said he was lucky to have a low rent payment through family at $200 a fortnight, but rising electricity bills and the cost of fuel was putting pressure on his budget. 

“I live on the other side of Learmonth and travel in to the senior citizens club every day. The rents are dear. That’s why I am out so far,’ he said. 

Around 30 people visit the city’s Senior Citizens Centre each day to enjoy a meal and socialise.

“It costs $6 for a main meal and $2 for a sweet. They can afford to come in here and have at least one meal a day,” Mr Pitt said.  

One in five people surveyed for the State of the (Older) Nation report said they had no money to spend on leisure and social activities. 

Council on the Ageing (COTA) Victoria chief executive Ronda Held said this could lead to social isolation and loneliness, which could also affect physical and mental health. 

“We know from the older people with whom we engage that those people more vulnerable to high living costs often put themselves last, which leads to poorer health and social outcomes. This is not the journey of ageing we want for older people,” she said. 

See a snapshot of the State of the (Older) Nation report below. 

Of people surveyed, 29 per cent of those still working said they did not think they would ever retire, while 15 per cent unprompted asked COTA to lobby for an increase to the pension.

When prompted with a set of suggestions as to what COTA could lobby for, 73 per cent felt improving the affordability of services such as energy, internet or phone contracts would make a big difference to their lives. 

The COTA Federation is seeking a commitment from all political parties and all levels of government to develop a long-term national strategy to address the needs of older Australians.

The federation is advocating for government to prioritise the development and implementation of a whole-of-government ageing strategy, increase rent assistance by 40 per cent and improve access to oral and dental health services for older Australia. 

Health was found to be the top concern for older people surveyed.