Irish pensioners are increasingly unlikely to experience poverty, despite the fact their average income has begun to fall in recent years.
A study on the income of the elderly reveals their average weekly income fell 6% in 2010 to €403.23 — a reduction of €25.63 a week.
It represented the first fall in average income since 2004, when weekly income for pensioners averaged just €289.05.
Pensioners enjoyed the largest percentage rise in income over the past decade as governments approved significant increases to the state pension during the economic boom.
As a result, the average income of the elderly soared by more than 48% between 2004 and 2009 compared to the national average of just less than 20%.
The risk of poverty stabilised at 9.6% in 2010 — a significant reduction from 27% in 2004.
The research by the CSO examined the income of people aged 65 and over in 2004, 2009, and 2010.
It revealed that pensioners have become more dependent on social welfare payments for their income in recent years, with such transfers now accounting for 63.4% of their weekly income — up from 57% in 2004.
Private pensions accounted for just over 17% of average weekly income for pensioners in 2010 — a reflection on the fact that many people are heavily dependent on the state pension for income.
However, the CSO said elderly people tended to experience lower levels of enforced deprivation than all other groups in society.
The consistent poverty rate for the elderly was just under 1% in 2010 — down from almost 4% a decade ago. In contrast, the consistent rate among the general population was 6.2% in 2010.
The CSO defines poverty as anybody with less than 60% of average income levels, while consistent poverty is assessed as being at risk of poverty combined with living in a household deprived of at least two of 11 basic items indicators. They include having two pairs of shoes; a warm, waterproof overcoat; eating meat every second day; buying new, not second-hand clothes; having a roast dinner once a week; and going out for socialising or entertainment within the past fortnight.
In 2010, 55% of elderly people were female, with just 7% of all those aged 65 claiming they were still “at work”.
More than half of all pensioners described themselves as married, while almost 88% owned their own home. More than a third lived alone, while almost 55% lived in an urban area.
Almost 56% of the elderly said they suffered from a chronic illness, while 7% said they had bad health. Just over 43% said they were covered by private medical insurance.
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