Are seniors’ incomes secure?
“One of my greatest concerns is the financial income of seniors. For a growing number of clients that I have contact with, their pensions are not covering their overall needs.”
Sandra Grant, Administrator, Age Concern’s Call Centre, Charities House, 25 Point Finger Road.
The following is the final article of a series by
Age Concern Bermuda in partnership with
The Royal Gazette that seeks to highlight the most critical social issues facing the ageing population of Bermuda. Today’s article focuses on Age Concern’s contact with older adults and whether income levels are inadequate in meeting their day to day needs.
The 2010 Census indicates that the median annual pension income for persons 55 years and older had reached $15,606 in 2010, a 38 percent increase over 2000 Census figures which recorded annual median pension incomes at $11, 286. Although the increase in pension payments has been most welcomed by pensioners, there exists signs that there may be a growing number of seniors who are no longer able to sustain themselves on their current incomes, mostly incomes supported though Social Insurance entitlements.
Ms Sandra Grant is the Administrator of Age Concern’s, Information Call Centre. Last year the Call Centre processed 4,665 contacts. Ms Grant describes her role as being the first point of contact for seniors’ issues and concern when they seek the help of Age Concern.
Since taking on her role in 2008, Ms Grant has noticed that there has been a shift in the plight of some seniors in that life seems to be getting more difficult. She states, “One of my greatest concerns is the financial income of seniors. For a growing number of clients that I have contact with, their pensions are not covering their overall needs, especially for these needing to consistently to fill prescriptions.”
Ms Grant recalls a most recent case where a 70 year old senior was servicing a mortgage with her entire pension and had nothing left over, relying on the benevolence of friends and family to buy food and to take care of other necessities. She called this client “one of the lucky ones”, because sometime soon the mortgage payments were scheduled to be completed. However, for other seniors that she has had to help, she says their pensions will never meet their basic needs.
Ms Grant indicates that as a referral source, she often refers seniors to other helping agencies when Age Concern is unable to assist. In fact, she has also used her own resources and has called on her own family and church to assist Age Concern clients if the need could not be immediately met by an existing agency or services.
“Often times when a senior comes to us at Age Concern they are tired. They may have attempted on their own to access the system of helping services available but have experienced mistreatment, humiliation and stigmatisation.” she expressed with a great deal of conviction. She says she had one older adult tell her that they would starve before they subjected themselves to further humiliation and mistreatment. In these circumstances she states, “It is always important for me as a representative of Age Concern to encourage seniors not to give up.”
With respect to what can be done to help seniors whose income levels fall short she states that regarding services like the government subsidised Financial Assistance programme, many seniors are still under the impression that persons who own homes are not eligible for help. She states that there needs to be further awareness on this issue. She also notes that seniors need help in reducing healthcare costs.
Age Concern has seen a number of cases where more than 80 percent of pension income is being used to pay for health insurance premiums. She recalls meeting a senior recently who had less than $70 left over each month after health insurance premium deductions were taken from her pension.
As a result of her experiences at Age Concern, Ms Grant believes strongly that working at Age Concern has been the biggest wake up call for preparing for her own old age. She says she now handles her money more carefully and keeps up to date annually on checking her Social Insurance contributions. She has also found ways to reduce her electricity costs in her own home.
“Unfortunately, it is often too late for planning by the time we come in contact with a senior at Age Concern. However, we are now starting to expand our focus by helping younger seniors to become more knowledgeable about how to spend their money.”
While she admits that individuals have a personal responsibility to protect their financial future, she says that policymakers must ensure that income levels for the most vulnerable remain sufficient enough for them to enjoy a reasonable quality of life. She says that policymakers should not neglect the voice of seniors and their experiences and that the lived experiences of seniors should help to shape the policies that are made to help them.
“We need policymakers that use their heads and their hearts!” She also warned leaders and others not to take the plight of vulnerable seniors as if it were another call for a handout, but rather for each person to try to put themselves in the shoes of a seasoned warrior now in need of much deserved support and rest. “He who feels, it knows it,” she concluded.
Join the conversation about the Campaign for Successful Ageing. Follow us on Facebook ageconcern.bm.