'I'm sick of us being treated as whingers just because we are old. We've got to fight every step of the way, which is so unfair. We are entitled to respect," says Ellen Reddin, an active member of older people's groups in Ballymun.
Reddin was among the estimated 200 older people who attended a public meeting in Dublin this week to share their concerns with local politicians in advance of the budget.
“The problem is we were managing well on our pensions at €238 per week until all the secondary benefits started to be taken away from us,” she explains. “Now, when we go to collect our pension in the post office, we come home with loose change after we’ve paid all our bills. Even my “free” electricity has VAT charged on it.”
“We pay the prescription charge on medicines, bin charges, telephone and television provider charges as well as the bills for heating and light. I worked until I was 66 and had savings but I’ve none left so I’ve got to survive on my pension.”
Reddin says she’s lucky because she lives alone in rented accommodation. “I’ve no property charges and no repair bills. I know older people who are still living in the family home. I say to them, why don’t you sell up and move out?”
After raising a family of six, she says buying food just for herself is one of her biggest challenges. “I can’t shop around. If I was to go into town to shop in all the different supermarkets, I’d have to carry all the food home. It’s hard to buy food for one when you’ve raised a family. A lot of food goes to waste.”
Reddin is a member of Age Action, which organised the public meeting.
"I was also a member of Older and Bolde and I've joined this new Age Friendly group in Finglas," she says. "Age Action was the first group to give us older people a voice and a chance to speak to those in the higher echelons." Politicians from all the major political parties attended the public meeting in the Aisling Hotel earlier in the week.
According to Age Action spokesperson Eamon Timmins: "It was quite an angry meeting at times. There were a lot of questions about income, whether the state pension was adequate. Many people were saying it wasn't enough to survive on."
The cost of water charges was an issue raised at the meeting. And the cost of fuel was a key concern with many people struggling to afford to heat their homes, especially if they were living alone.
Age Action is calling for the Living Alone allowance to be raised by €3.80 to €11.50 a week in the next budget. It also seeks a €5 increase in the State pension.