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Act4Age: Tackling pensioner poverty


'I am sorry to say I don’t have enough money and so I have to cut back on things like going out and meeting people. I can’t afford any activities and I'm not able to go on a day out.'

Key facts:

  • After Housing Costs, around 17% pensioners, 51,000 people, were in absolute poverty in 2013-14.
  • After Housing Costs, 17% of pensioner couples living alone were in relative poverty.
  • Pensioners without an occupational/personal pension were over three times more likely to be in relative poverty compared to those with some occupational/personal pension.
  • Older pensioners aged 75 years or older had approximately a quarter less income than those under 75 years.
  • Households headed by older people were much more likely to be living in fuel poverty than other households in 2011.

We want current and future pensioners to have enough money from state and private sources to live comfortably and to participate fully and with dignity in society.

Why does this matter?

Poverty in later life means a miserable existence which can lead to ill health and isolation. The positive news that pensioner poverty has reduced requires more detailed analysis as the poorest pensioners have seen no real improvement in their income. Official statistics show that the overall change in pensioners’ weekly income over the past 10 years has been minimal in real terms, and reveal little about the lived experiences of older people in poverty.

Older people can expect to face many significant events in later life which create new financial challenges which they will not necessarily have prepared for, such as bereavement, paying for care, and new needs due to changing health. Coping with reduced income on retirement is a key challenge, with 43% of older people telling us that that they underestimated the amount they would need for a comfortable retirement.

Nearly one in four (23%) older people tell us that they are struggling to afford essential items such as food, gas and electricity and 50% tell us that, while they can afford these essentials they have no money left for extras.

Older people on low incomes have to make difficult choices about how to stretch limited resources. Some forego items or opportunities that most people take for granted. Many fear for their ability to make ends meet and are anxious about the cost of care they need now or in the future.

Almost half (46%) of households experiencing fuel poverty are older households, with older people more likely to occupy dwellings that fail to meet acceptable standards. Health implications of fuel poverty are also more serious for this age cohort, with older people at greater risk of respiratory disease, coronary events and accidental hypothermia .

New rules around eligibility for the State pension are likely to result in women working for longer and, for some women, more anxiety around ensuring they have financial plans in place for their retirement. Finding suitable employment after the age of 50 years can be a challenge with implications for income in later years. With changing circumstances in later life, such as caring responsibilities or health difficulties, it is important that workplaces adopt more flexible work practices and that expert financial advice and guidance is available.

Scams are a major threat to older people’s financial security and overall health and well being, with evidence that older people may be especially at risk of becoming a victim at particular times because of personal circumstances, such as isolation, cognitive impairment, bereavement and financial pressures. Older people may also experience financial abuse carried out by someone they know including a relative, neighbour or carer.


Last updated: Jul 04 2018

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