New Government figures show that there are 1.9 million pensioners in the UK living in poverty and that 8%, the equivalent to 940,000, would not be able to pay an unexpected bill of £200, Age UK has warned.
A spokesman for Age UK said many of these older people are likely to be in poor health and feeling extremely vulnerable as the country shuts down to stem the spread of Covid-19.
At this time of national crisis, vital frontline services provided by charities such as Age UK have never been more important or in such high demand.
Local Age UKs across the country are racing to put systems and processes in place so they can provide practical and emotional support to their older populations in the weeks and months to come.
The charity said it is deeply concerned that pensioner poverty levels have remained unchanged, and when life returns to some semblance of normality, the government needs to do more to ensure older people get the benefits they’re entitled to.
However, in light of the unprecedented situation, the charity’s immediate concern is to get help to those people who need it today.
Age UK has launched an Emergency Coronavirus Appeal with the aim of raising £10m to help it meet the rapidly increasing demand for its services. The response so far has been hugely promising, but there is a long way to go and older people are in urgent need of support.
Despite communities across the country rising to the challenge and rallying round to offer support, the charity said it is extremely concerned about the millions of older people who are on their own. And who do not have family and friends nearby or at all, and are already dealing with multiple difficulties such as unmet care needs, chronic ill-health, disability and loneliness.
A spokesman for Age UK said 53% of over-75s don’t use the internet and so are unable to connect virtually with the world beyond their own four walls.
The charity said telephone and community support will be absolutely crucial for them in the challenging months ahead.
It said, since the start of the current crisis, Age UK’s national advice line has already seen a 56% increase in demand, while The Silver Line has experienced an increase in calls from older people who are deeply anxious, depressed and in desperate need of reassurance and friendship.
Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK said: ‘We have already had such an encouraging response to our Coronavirus Emergency Appeal, raising over £1 million already from businesses and individual donations. But we have a long way to go before we reach our £10 million target.
‘The coronavirus pandemic has changed life for everyone but with new figures showing that 1.9 million pensioners are still living in poverty, with many more struggling just to make ends meet, we are extremely concerned that many of the most vulnerable won’t be getting the help they need.
‘In the weeks and months ahead older people are going to need Age UK in huge numbers, and to an extent that we have never experienced before.
‘All donations, no matter how big or small, will help us to rise to the challenge and provide older people who are isolating with comfort, hope and practical support to help them pull through this unprecedented time.’
As well as appealing for vital funds, Age UK is urging everyone to check in with older neighbours, friends and family members. Click here to donate.