Elderly are struggling to pay way

TOUGH TIMES: Members of the 60 and Better Program (from left) Betty Adams, Frances Kempen, Maureen Reinke, Les Wynne, Les Stuart, and Bob Massey.
TOUGH TIMES: Members of the 60 and Better Program (from left) Betty Adams, Frances Kempen, Maureen Reinke, Les Wynne, Les Stuart, and Bob Massey. David Nielsen

IPSWICH pensioner Arthur Edwards has been so short of money that he could not afford to put petrol in the tank of his car.

His staple diet is rice, mince and two-minute noodles.

And at times he can't even afford to leave his house.

The 75-year-old Bundamba great-grandfather isn't complaining - just pointing out how difficult it is for pensioners to get by as the cost of living continues to rise.

Mr Edwards was one of the Ipswich members of the 60 and Better Program who spoke with the QT about the issue during one of their discussion group meetings.

He and his fellow seniors said the cost of living had become such a burden for some in retirement that it was affecting their health and leaving them feeling abandoned and isolated.

After covering essential expenses for things like food, bills and medication, Mr Edwards said he was sometimes left with $60 a fortnight - about $4.20 a day.

"If you put together everything older people require during a fortnight, then you may wonder how are these people managing?" he said.

Fellow pensioner Bob Massey said he was at a point where he needed to earn extra income and had been trying to find work for more than a year.

The 76-year-old had even applied to McDonald's and for night-filling positions at Woolworths.

"I need extra money and I'm prepared to go out and earn it," he said. "But when I visited a job-finding organisation, and inquired about obtaining work, all I got was a laugh and a giggle.

"As you get older it seems you've just got to bite the bullet and accept you're over the hill."

Earlier this year the Federal Government boosted pension payments for singles by $35.80 a fortnight and by $54.80 for pensioner couples on the maximum rate.

But Mr Massey said times were still tough for pensioners with some risking their health by cutting corners on spending.

The Pine Mountain resident said he knew an elderly woman who couldn't afford her medication, so opted to cut her tablets into quarters, thinking it would be enough to fend off her illness.

"She didn't realise she had to take the whole tablet if it was to do her any good," he said.

Bonnie Phillott, from Ebbw Vale, said seniors were able to make ends meet only by adhering to a strict budget.

"But even the cheapest cuts of meats can be too expensive - I paid $18 for four small steaks, so those costs affect us," she said.

"The other thing that cripples us is the water rates as well as the land rates. My last water rates bill for the quarter was $209 and I live by myself."

As a consequence, Mrs Phillott said older people were becoming isolated - too poor to go on an outing, or even pay for a taxi.

"I used to enjoy going to the theatre to watch the ballet or opera, now I couldn't possibly do those sort of things because I can't afford it," she said.

"The situation is making a lot of seniors feel isolated and withdrawn which, as a result, contributes to things like Alzheimer's and other mental issues."

The Salvation Army's Major Neil Dickson said it wasn't unusual to have seniors seek assistance at the charitable organisation's centres.



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