Older people's wealth increased during the boom
OLDER PEOPLE benefited most from the increase in wealth during the boom, new figures from the Central Statistics Office show.
Average weekly incomes of older people rose by 48 per cent in the five years from 2004 to 2009 and then fell by 6 per cent – or €25.63 – between 2009 and 2010.
In 2009, the average weekly income of a person over 65 was €428.86. The figure fell to €403.23 in 2010. Six years earlier the average weekly income had been €289.06, according to the findings.
Older people were at the lowest risk of poverty compared to other age groups in 2010, having been at highest risk six years earlier, the CSO figures show.
In 2004 those over 65 years of age had the highest “at risk of poverty” rate at 27.1 per cent. That figure dropped to 9.6 per cent in 2009 and remained the same in 2010. Being at risk of poverty means having an income under 60 per cent of the national median wage.
Those in the 0-17 age group dropped from an at risk of poverty rate of 22.7 per cent in 2004 to 18.6 per cent in 2009 while the 18-64 age category went from 16.6 per cent in 2004 to 13 per cent in 2009.
The findings were part of a CSO thematic report on the elderly for the three years 2004, 2009 and 2010.
The Survey on Income and Living Conditions also reported the level of income for the over-65s that came from social transfers or welfare payments rising from 56.8 per cent in 2004 to 63.4 per cent in 2010.
Those in the 18-64 age group had an average weekly income of €503.26 in 2004, which rose 17.7 per cent to €592.57 in 2009 and dropped to €564.18 (4.8 per cent) the following year.
The 0-17 age group had average weekly earnings of €433.81 in 2004, which rose to €505.67 in 2009 and then dropped to €474.44 in 2010.
Earnings for the over-65s fell as a proportion of average income from 24.1 per cent in 2004 to 18.3 per cent in 2009 and to 12.7 per cent in 2010.
The 22-page report states: “In general, elderly people tend to experience lower levels of enforced deprivation than other groups in society.”
Age Action, the charity supporting older people, said a lot of the drop in the poverty risk rate was down to social transfers including State pension increases. “Before the recession we were moving towards a proper State pension level,” Age Action spokesman Gerard Scully said.
“But you have to put a caveat, that 9.6 per cent of those over 65, almost one in 10 are living close to poverty and this belies the notion that older people are doing well.”
For many older people any further cuts in the forthcoming budget would be devastating, he added.
The report’s figures show almost 55 per cent of the elderly in 2010 were female. Just over 7 per cent were still working while just under 7 per cent had third-level qualifications or higher.
Almost 56 per cent of those surveyed were married, almost 88 per cent lived in their own home and more than one-third lived alone. Almost 55 per cent lived in an urban area in 2010.
In that year, almost 56 per cent of the elderly said they suffered from a chronic illness while almost 7 per cent said they had bad or very bad health.
Just over 43 per cent had private medical insurance in 2010 compared to 33.5 per cent six years earlier.
MEASURING POVERTY: CRITERIA
According to CSO measures, those at risk of poverty, or considered marginalised or deprived, are identified through not having at least two or more of the following 11 basic indicators - and less than 60 per cent of the national median wage:
1. Two pairs of strong shoes
2. A warm waterproof overcoat
3. Buy new clothes
4. Eat meal with meat, chicken, fish (or vegetarian equivalent) every second day
5. Have a roast joint, or its equivalent, once a week
6. Did not go without heating last year through lack of money
7. Keep the home adequately warm
8. Buy presents for family or friends at least once a year
9. Replace any worn-out furniture
10. Have family or friends for a drink or meal once a month
11. Have a morning, afternoon or evening out in the last fortnight for entertainment