Poor outlook for elderly on centenary of state pension

IT S that time of year when people look back on their recent history and forward to what they hope to do and achieve in the year and more to come. I suspect there is a growing number of the population who are doing their crystal ball gazing with increasin

IT'S that time of year when people look back on their recent history and forward to what they hope to do and achieve in the year and more to come.

I suspect there is a growing number of the population who are doing their crystal ball gazing with increasing dread.

The ageing process is something we cannot avoid and the number of people the wrong side of 60 is bigger than ever.

For them, the prospect of soon stopping what they have been doing for many a long year - working - and going into retirement must be daunting, not only because of the major change in lifestyle it brings but also because of the dire economic circumstances we find ourselves in these days and the worry over the future of savings and private pensions.


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And then there is the much criticised state pension.

It was introduced into this country on New Year's Day 100 years ago. Men and women aged 70 and over were allowed, if they passed a means test, to collect five shillings (25p) a week from the post office.

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It was hailed as a great social good, helping so many people. But the pioneers who brought in the state pension scheme would be turning in their graves if they knew that a century on, one in four pensioners - that's 2.5 million people - isstill living in poverty. And the problem is going to get worse.

In the last year on record the number of pensioners living below the official poverty line of £151 a week rose by 300,000.

In the 10 years up to 2006 the number of people living in severe poverty increased by 600,000.

There are more statistics which are just as depressing. I won't bore you with them, except one which revealed a recent EU survey showed only pensioners in Latvia, Spain and Cyprus are more likely to fall into poverty than those in the UK. Anywhere else in Europe, and you will be better off than here.

This is all too depressing, so let's finish the year off on a lighter note. I always take an interest in the annual league table of most popular names for babies which comes out about now.

Jack retained its top spot, where it has been for 14 years since taking over from Thomas, despite strong competition from Oliver.

But there was change in the girls' category with Grace, which took over the top spot only 12 months ago, making way for Olivia - and in fact slipping back into third behind Ruby.

Isla climbed from 58th to 35th and the 1960s inspired Summer went from 44th to 16th. Ava leapt 15 places to 19th but Amy dropped three places to 23rd and Holly went down six places to 25th. Also losing popularity were Rebecca and Courtney.

On the boys' side, Liam and Dylan broke into the top 20 for the first time, replacing Ryan and Luke, while Callum slipped from 13th to 22nd.

Growing in popularity were Theo, Riley, Ewan and Leon while names which vanished from the top 100 were Tegan, Patrick, Dominic and Gabriel. Fascinating, eh? See you in 2009.

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