The realities of living on a low fixed income in retirement and the difficulties pensioners face in trying to meet the additional, unavoidable costs are detailed in a report by Age UK.
Its policy report, which is based on in-depth interviews shows how the need for extra spending due to ill health, disability, living in insecure or poor housing, or away from family and friends, makes life difficult if there is not much money coming in.
Two million people live in hardship and nearly a million (930,000) are unable to pay an unexpected bill of £200, according to government figures.
The charity’s report, Struggling On sets out the realities and coping strategies that older people have developed to manage.
It warns that those with health and care needs are particularly likely to struggle because of having to spend more on heating, laundry, transport and care and healthcare items.
Poverty rates are much higher among older tenants than home owners, with 29% of social tenants and 35% of private tenants living in poverty compared to 16% of all pensioners.
The report recommends the government work with the advice sector to look at how free, independent and accessible information is provided for older people in difficulty; universal benefits such as bus passes and free TV licences be preserved; regulators ensure that the price of essential services such as insurance, energy and water are affordable; and government work with local authorities to improve the situation of older renters.
Caroline Abrahams, Age UK charity director, said: ‘Part of the problem is the low incomes on which some older people have to survive, but another largely overlooked element is the extra costs that come along with getting older: like having to buy pads and running the washing machine more if you are incontinent or having the heating up higher if you are chronically unwell.
‘It’s no surprise that older people with care needs and those who pay rent are much more likely to have financial problems than the population of older people overall.
‘The older people who took part in our research were mostly just about getting by, but only by budgeting very carefully and organising their lives to get the most from every penny, which is challenging for anyone at any age, let alone if you are in your seventies or beyond.’