new survey | 

Pensioners ‘turning off fridges’ and ‘not using cookers’ as cost-of-living crisis worsens

An overwhelming majority of pensioners and senior citizens are worried about paying their energy bills and putting food on the table this winter

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An overwhelming majority of pensioners and senior citizens are worried about paying their energy bills and putting food on the table this winter, with some older people expressing outright fear over how they will cope, a new survey from the ALONE charity reveals.

The survey conducted ahead of the senior citizen charity’s Pre-Budget Submission found that 92pc of its members surveyed said they are very concerned about the rising cost of heat and energy, with 67pc of respondents worried about rising food costs and just under a third (32pc) worried about maintaining household appliances and other necessities in the event they break down.

Some have even turned off their fridges and are not using gas cookers any more as a result of the spiralling energy bills while others said they have cut back on necessities like meat and washing powder due to rising costs.

Close to three-quarters of respondents said they are “very or extremely” worried about the cost of living with close to two-thirds of respondents already struggling to pay their bills.

“Several people mentioned specifically that they were worried and fearful about their future as they got older, and concerned about what they would do if things got any worse. One respondent stated: “I fear that I won’t be able to heat my home and afford to eat come winter”, while another said they were “frightened for the first time in my life at the costs”.

Many have already expressed fears that they won’t be able to use their storage heaters this winter due to the escalating energy bills.

A majority of respondents (67pc) said the Government should do something in the upcoming Budget to reduce energy costs, increase payments to more vulnerable members of society (63pc) and reduce taxes such as VAT and excise duty.

Meanwhile, the charity is calling on the Government to ensure that the State Pension, the Living Alone Allowance and the Fuel Allowance are each increased by a minimum of €20 per week in the Budget.

It is also calling for further measures to be introduced across social protection, health, and housing to support older people throughout the winter and into next year.

“Repeated increases in the cost of fuel, food, and other expenses have become unmanageable for older people. Budget 2023 has the opportunity to be a turning point. This year, the Budget is the main source of hope for many older people ahead of what we have been told will be an extremely difficult winter. We urge Government to make the right decisions this year. Increases to supports in Budget 2023 are critical for older people, and all experiencing poverty and deprivation, in light of the ongoing cost of living crisis,” said ALONE CEO Sean Moynihan.

He said: “Older people’s difficulties have been steadily increasing in recent years, and now the situation has become critical. People aged 65 and older were the only group to see increases across all three poverty rates between 2020 and 2021. Now, some older people say they are fearful for the first time in their lives regarding the increase in costs. Older people have been promised better than this, and so far, that promise hasn’t been kept.”

“Some of the conversation in recent days has pitted younger people against older people. We must not let age become a battleground. We believe that everyone should have a decent standard of living, including older people,” he added.

“We must take into consideration that roughly 92,000 older people are living in or at risk of poverty in Ireland today – that is more than the population of counties Longford and Leitrim, combined. Older people living alone have the lowest median income of all households, and those in rural areas will not even meet the minimum essential standard of living on their income. No one should find this acceptable.”

“The stereotype of all older people as being wealthy and secure is not reflective of the population today, nor will it be reflective in the years to come. The story is not as simple as ‘older people versus younger people’, the ‘haves’ versus the ‘have nots’, much as many would wish it were. At ALONE for example we still come across cases of older people who do not have indoor toilets in their homes,” he said.

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