Elderly 'at lower risk of poverty'


Elderly people are far less at risk of falling into poverty than previously, according to new figures from the Central Statistics Office (CSO).

The data shows the risk of poverty rate for those aged 65 or over fell from 27.1 per cent in 2004 to 9.6 per cent in 2009. It also reveals the gross weekly income of elderly people rose by more than 48 per cent during the same time period, from €289.05 in 2004 to €428.86 two years ago.

This compares with a weekly income rise of 18 per cent for those of working age and almost 17 per cent for those aged less than 17 years.

The risk at poverty rate is the share of persons with an income below 60 per cent of the national median income.

The rise in weekly income was attributed to increases in State payments and occupational pensions.

Earnings fell as a proportion of gross income from 24.1 per cent in 2004 to 18.3 per cent in 2009, while the proportion of gross income made up of income from occupational pensions increased from 12.9 per cent in 2004 to 16.2 per cent in 2009.

The consistent poverty rate for the elderly population fell from 3.9 per cent in 2004 to 1.1 per cent in 2009, while the level of enforced deprivation among those aged over 65 remained largely unchanged at 9.5 per cent.

According to the data, elderly people tend to experience lower levels of enforced deprivation than other groups in society.

The figures find those living in rented accommodation and those who described their health status as "bad or very bad" were considered most at risk of falling into poverty.

Older people who were married had an average weekly gross income of €475.53 compared with those who were widowed, divorced or separated at €378.17. Individuals who had never married had average incomes of €373.71.

The statistics reveal that elderly people living alone had the lowest gross income at €361.89.

The average weekly gross income of elderly males in 2009 was €458.28 compared with €404.95 for females, a difference of more than 13 per cent.

The latest figures also show significant differences in income levels among those living in urban and rural areas with the weekly gross income of those living in major towns and cities some 27 per cent higher.

On average, those aged 65 and over living in urban areas had weekly gross incomes of €479.61 in 2009, compared to €376.89 for those living outside of major towns and cities.

For the most part, the difference in income levels was attributed by the CSO to higher levels of money from occupational pensions for those living in urban area.

The numbers of older people with private medical insurance rose from 33.5 per cent in 2004 to 41 per cent by 2009, according to the data.

In 2009, more than 55 per cent of those aged 65 and over were female and some 34 per cent of the elderly population lived alone. Nine per cent of those aged 65 or over said they were still working.

Just 3.5 per cent of the elderly population had a highest level of educational attainment of third level degree, the data shows.