The conversations of life

One in three pensioners live below the poverty line in Australia – it could be you


A new study has found many of the 1.5 million Australians on the Age Pension were living with “profound levels of deprivation”[1].

The base rate for the pension is just $798 for singles and $602 each for couples. The poverty line is $851.

Those most at risk? Older women who rent their home and rely solely on the Pension.

Research has consistently shown the years between our late 60’s and early 80’s are supposed to be the happiest of our lives[2][i], but with the International Day of Older Persons tomorrow, what about those of us who are living on the edge?

Life below the poverty line

pension-graphPicture this – you are a single woman, about 70 years of age. You have no superannuation and no savings. You may be in poor health and without family support.

You don’t own your own home so you have to rent somewhere and it’s not cheap – a room in a boarding house is the cheapest option at around $150 per week in Sydney or Melbourne.

You could move out to a rural or regional area to find something cheaper, but you would be living away from friends and familiar surroundings.

On the other hand, we have politicians taking private helicopter rides and Health Services Union officials who siphon off three-quarters of a million dollars or buy private beaches down at Palm Beach.

The silent majority

It’s all well and good to have these International Days, but as well as celebrating older people, we need to acknowledge those who don’t have a voice.

As our journalist Chris Baynes pointed out here last week, the number of 65-year-olds has jumped to 120,000, a 200 per cent increase since 2000.

That’s a lot more people heading for what should be the best years of their lives who could find themselves in this same position – and suffering in silence.

Let’s remember them too tomorrow.

Are you on the Age Pension? Do you think it provides an adequate amount enough to live on? Tell us your thoughts below.

The Benevolent Society has made a video titled ‘fix Pension Poverty’ where you can hear from real-life people living on the Age Pension – it’s well worth a look. Watch it here.

[1] ‘Adequacy of the Age Pension in Australia: An assessment of pensioner living standards’ – Per Capita, The Benevolent Society and The Longevity Hub – September 2016

[2] ‘Life satisfaction across life course transitions’ – Lixia Qu and David de Vaus: Australian Family Trends No. 8 — September 2015

Lauren is a journalist for, agedcare101 and The Donaldson Sisters. Growing up in a big family in small town communities, she has always had a love for the written word, joining her local library at the age of six months. With over eight years' experience in writing and editing, she is a keen follower of news and current affairs with a nose for a good story.

Discussion2 Comments

  1. Please note the single age pension is currently $877.10 per fortnight with supplements (energy and pension supplement) and $661.20 per person for a pension couple per fortnight with supplements.

  2. Hi I have elderly parents that rent a house for $360 per week, they are now looking for something cheaper, their health is a bit below average for their age, my mother suffers from depression because of the uncertainty off the permanency of renting the house they are in. They were living in a village that took 85% of their pension and food was included, the units were very small 1 bed ( just) but they left as the food was not nutritional and very basic( home brand crap). to make matters worse I am leaving the state so they will have no family close, however I am looking into rental villages in Queensland close to where I will be so hope fully they can move up there so we will be closer, they are still quite independent and they have a dog ( another problem with renting). They recently asked me if I could buy them a small house or unit so they would have a permanent home, I went to the bank and it can be done (just ) but I have to wait until I have worked for six months when I move, also we will need our own loan to purchase. So it not only gets complicated but it pulls at the heart strings because we want to do the right thing by our parents but money is the root of all evil. Why can’t some wealthy developer put up some 2 bedroom small yard accommodation for pensioners who have pets ( they are better for them so many have to give them up NOT RIGHT) at a reasonable cost for permanent rent. I wish I could win lotto this is exactly what I would do there would be no shortage of renters.

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