Irish pensioners among wealthiest in EU, survey shows

Ireland’s pensioners are among the happiest and wealthiest in the EU, according to figures released ahead of International Day of Older Persons tomorrow, but those under 65 are among the most at risk of poverty.

Younger generations are more than twice as likely to be at risk of poverty which is higher than the EU average according to Eurostat. And they are among the most at risk of poverty and social exclusion in the EU, with only Bulgarians, Romanians, Latvians and Greeks worse off.

Pensioners are at the other end of the scale, with those from just five countries at less risk of poverty than the Irish — the Netherlands, Luxembourg, France, Denmark and the Czech Republic.

But Kieran Walsh of the Irish Centre for Social Gerontology in Galway university urges caution when looking at the figures for older people, saying their studies found poverty and deprivation risks have increased with cutbacks, although preserving the old age pension has helped.

Ireland has the EU’s youngest population and the smallest proportion of pensioners with just one in eight people over 65-years-old.

When it comes to not having enough money to get by, 10% of pensioners are at risk and close to 15% of other adults. The difference is even greater for those who are materially disadvantaged with just 3.6% of pensioners saying they are in this situation compared to three times those under 65 saying they do not have enough money to pay bills, heat their home, have meat regularly, have a car, a washing machine, a colour TV or a phone.

Dr Walsh, whose centre has researched the effects of austerity on the elderly, said questionnaires do not always capture the reality of people’s lives. Some answers might reflect they they are better off than previous generations while the effect on some of losing social transfers, home care or a Christmas bonus may not be reflected.

Another Eurostat survey, found the Irish population aged over 75 are much more satisfied with their lives than the EU average. They were the second most content with their living environment, third happiest with their personal relationships, fourth with their accommodation and overall life satisfaction, and seventh with finances.

The only issue appeared to be how they fill their time. The answer may be in their use of the internet — just a third of those aged 65 to 74 use it regularly, less than the EU average and well behind the Danes who also, coincidently have the least problems with how they use their time.

Age Action’s Justin Moran said while the Government’s National Digital Strategy set a target in 2013 of halving those not online in three years, this will not be reached. It has provided training to more than 26,000 older people since 2006 with funding from the state benefit scheme.


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