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Poverty and financial disadvantage

Living on a low income in later life is very hard work. Every penny has to be watched, shopping lists have to be kept to and money has to be saved for bills. There is no room for luxuries.

Age UK believes that state and private pension systems need to ensure current and future pensioners are able to avoid poverty in later life. In the meantime, benefit take-up must be increased through on-going publicity, changes to administration and looking at ways of placing less onus on the individual to navigate a complicated system of benefits.

Older people living in poverty

The level of pensioner poverty is substantially lower than it was 20 years. However, the main reduction was in the first decade of this century. Since 2010/11 the numbers remained steady, until 2015/16 when, worryingly, there was a small rise in poverty. Some of the most recent figures are given below and we have a briefing paper with more information.

Key stats:

  • 1 in 6 pensioners (1.9 million or 16% of pensioners in the UK) live in poverty, defined as having household income of less than 60% of median household income after housing costs.
  • A further 1.1million pensioners have incomes just above the poverty line (more than 60% but less than 70% of median income).
  • Low income in retirement is often linked to earlier low pay, or time out of employment, e.g. due to caring responsibilities, disability or unemployment.
  • Single people are more likely to be in poverty than couples, and older pensioners (especially those aged 85+), tenants and black and minority ethnic pensioners are at particular risk.

Poverty in later life - the facts, 2018 (PDF 499 KB)

Take this week, the heating has gone up...
it is literally going to cost us almost
£200 a year more... That's without having
a bad winter and anything like that

Older woman | Age UK focus group

Missing out on entitlements

Given these levels of poverty, it is of great concern that many older people are missing out on entitlements. The Government estimates that in 2014-15, £3.5 billion of low income benefits (Pension Credit and Housing Benefit) went unclaimed by older people.

This is likely to be due to a combination of reasons including:

  • lack of knowledge about the complicated systems
  • an assumption they will not be entitled
  • negative attitudes to claiming
  • or because people are put off by the processes.

We help older people to claim benefits

Together with our national partners and local Age UKs, we help older people to know about and claim the benefits they're entitled to, such as Carer's Allowance, Attendance Allowance and Pension Credit.

The £219 million identified by the Age UK network in unclaimed benefits this year is £36 million more than last year, and 37% above our target. Our local Age UKs also offer benefits advice home visits thanks to extra funding from our Warmer Homes Programme.

Reports and briefings

Age UK has published a series of research and policy reports on poverty and financial disadvantage.

Poverty in later life - the facts, 2018 (PDF 499 KB)

What's it like to live on a low income? 2012 (PDF 1.14 MB)


Last updated: Apr 24 2018

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