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Passport cost highlights plight of seniors

The predicament of seniors facing rising prices has been laid bare by an 80-year-old woman’s inability to cover the surprise cost of a new passport — $160.

“Back when this little island was flourishing, it was the people now in their senior years that made the island what it is,” the former hotel worker told The Royal Gazette.

“If you didn’t treat guests well, they wouldn’t have come back and back. Now it’s like we’re pushed in a corner.”

The woman, who asked not to be identified to protect her privacy, cares for an elderly husband with Alzheimer’s, cancer and diabetes. A substantial portion of her $550 a month pension is deducted for medical insurance, leaving them struggling to get by — with a little help from their family.

A $335 bill for her husband to see a doctor leaves her with a $183 co-pay, she said, which she must “struggle” to pay.

But she hit her limit after her grandson, who works in the travel industry, offered to take her on a trip — and she found that seniors must now pay for a new passport. According to a spokeswoman for the Ministry of Home Affairs, passport fees for seniors rose when the printing of passports was switched to Britain in June 2016.

“The fees for seniors for passport applications was introduced in accordance with the normal fees amendments, per the Government Fees Regulations 1976,” she said.

“The rationale for fees for seniors was due to the printing of passports by Her Majesty’s Passport Office.

“An updated list of fees was placed in our reception area (under normal practice) as information sheets and communicated verbally to passport applicants at the time of application.”

However, for one elderly woman, the cost of $160 was too high: “I thought they had to make some leeway for seniors,” she said.

Buying a house at an early age and raising seven children left her with little put aside.

“I haven’t asked for help. But I am going to have to. I can’t see myself swinging that bill.”

Her plight is shared by “a lot of seniors — there are tears that flow from us”, she added.

Other elderly residents in her neighbourhood must balance their bills and purchases of food with the timing of pension cheques.

“People buy food for a certain time and when it runs out they ask neighbours to help them. It’s a lot of it going on right now.

“I cook a lot of soups and stews and put it in the freezer. If somebody in my area wants something, I will give it to them. We never thought things would end up the way it is.”