Rising cost of living pushes seniors into food insecurity during retirement

Jul 26, 2023
Current aged pension not enough to support retirees amid cost of living crisis. Source: Getty

In the face of soaring living costs and mounting financial challenges, many pensioners are being hit with an unexpected and distressing reality.

After decades of hard work, seniors like Bob Barber are having their retirement years overshadowed by worries about where their next meal would come from.

Despite receiving the age pension of $1,464.60, the rising cost of living has left him and his wife unable to afford groceries and basic necessities.

“By the time we pay for our rent, put money aside for insurance, the car licence, gas and electricity, and pay for [health appointments] … we’ve got about $10 to $15 left in our pocket. And that usually goes into fuel,” Barber tells the ABC.

“We couldn’t buy any groceries with what we’ve got left. We don’t get any luxuries. We don’t go out to meals because we can’t afford it.”

The cost of living crisis forced Barber and his wife to move to a remote town in Western Australia in an attempt to escape the financial strains. The move was ultimately useless as the cost of living pressures started to spread across the nation.

“If it wasn’t for Doors Wide Open, Foodbank, Salvos, and Vinnies we wouldn’t survive,” he said.

“We would be starving, literally.”

A recent comprehensive analysis of grocery prices across the country showed the annual grocery price inflation had risen to a record high of 9.49 per cent with the largest price increases being found in items such as dairy and eggs which saw an increase of 9.05 per cent and bread and bakery items at 4.94 per cent.

Alarmingly, the report also found that the older demographics are facing the steepest price rises both annually and quarterly, with pensioners faced with a 15.31 per cent increase annually and 3.92 per cent rise quarterly in the cost of food.

The federal Department of Social Services states that the age pension is paid at the highest legislated rate of income support in Australia and is indexed twice a year to keep up with living cost increases. However, some seniors still find it insufficient to meet their needs.

A report from COTA found that a staggering 6 in 10 seniors say that the cost of living is placing an enormous strain on their budget. A striking 45 per cent believe that their situation is worse, a significant rise from 2021 (33 per cent) and 2019 (27 per cent).

Despite the government’s efforts to help ease financial pressure for seniors, Barber says he feels as though seniors are “left behind as citizens.”

“I know the government’s got a lot of people they are going to support but I think they could help more, or could be of more assistance in the way of rent assistance and stuff like that,” he said.

Barber’s story comes shortly after Treasurer Jim Chalmers announced that the country’s $20 billion surplus will not be used to further ease the cost of living crisis faced by struggling households.

“We’re not currently working on a new package of cost-of-living relief, we’re focused on rolling out billions of dollars in cost-of-living relief that we have already announced,” Chalmers said.

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