15/11/2013

Energy And Food Top Concerns For Elderly

The price of energy and food is among the top concerns of pensioners in Northern Ireland, according to a new report.

Worries about accessing health and social care have also risen significantly over the last year.

The report summarises the findings of the 2013 Northern Ireland Pensioners Parliament.

It found that four out of five pensioners are worried about the price of energy, whilst two out of three are worried about meeting the cost of food.

Age Sector Platform, the charity responsible for the Northern Ireland Pensioners Parliament, says the government must do more to make sure elderly citizens are not constantly struggling to get by.

Michael Monaghan, Chair of the NI Pensioners Parliament, said: "Proposals for tackling high energy prices have taken centre stage at Westminster recently, and rightly so. The cost of keeping warm in winter has been the top concern of pensioners since the Pensioners Parliament began three years ago; and it is vital that our NI Executive approaches this problem with as much enthusiasm as their counterparts in the UK Parliament.

"The big energy companies in Great Britain have been probed about their pricing strategies; is it too much to ask our Executive to scrutinise the energy market here and start asking difficult questions? Without a doubt, pensioners across Northern Ireland are awaiting the answers."

Mr Monaghan continued:"The price of food has come out as the second biggest concern of pensioners here. Since last year, we have been calling on food retailers to consider the introduction of a pensioner discount day which could help older shoppers cope with the rising cost of living and enable them to maintain a balanced and healthy diet.

"The majority of older people live alone or as part of small households, meaning that special promotions for bulk buying are of no use to them. We will continue our ‘Silver Saver’ campaign and meet with as many food retailers as we can to ensure the cost of food becomes manageable for our older population."

Access to health and social care saw the biggest growth in concern, with almost half of pensioners listing it as a problem. This was a rise of 16% on last year and the sharpest climb for any issue since the Parliament began in 2011.

Mr Monaghan said: "It is clear that the planned health reforms are leading to increased concerns amongst older people about their ability to access health and social care services in the future. Older people have been telling us that they are worried about the impact these changes will have for them as they grow older and remain unconvinced that the resources are in place to achieve what is proposed.

"Following the strong public reaction to the planned closures of residential care homes earlier this year, our findings have re-emphasised the need for proper consultation and communication with older people regarding any changes to the health and social care service. We are also calling on the Health Minister to carry out an Equality Impact Assessment on the proposals as a matter of urgency to establish their full impact on older people; acting as a safety net for many older people unsure about the consequences for them."

(IT/CD)

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