Many pensioners doing it hard
THE cost of living in Rockhampton is crippling some pensioners' budgets, while others are able to live "fairly comfortably", according to pensioner and Berserker resident Colin Ramsden.
As president of the North Rockhampton Senior Citizens Club, Col often hears stories of people who are struggling to get by on the Federal Government's old-age pension.
With a base payment of $344 a week and median weekly rental costs for a two-bedroom unit in Rockhampton at $230 in the December 2011 quarter, many pensioners would be left with as little as $114.50 for other essential needs.
Col said that with tight budgeting, pensioners with assets such as a family home or a unit they owned outright, could live fairly comfortably.
But for many others, he said, every week was like walking a financial tightrope with the biggest costs after rent being groceries and basic health and transport needs.
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the city had an average income of a little more than $50,000 in 2010.
Col said that as more highly paid mining workers and their families moved to the region, pushing the average income higher; pensioners were feeling the squeeze as landlords raised rents.
He said: "There are several different categories of pensioners in town, with some who own their own homes living fairly comfortable, although rates are always increasing.
"Then you've got pensioners who may have had a bad trot in life, who don't have any assets, and are really just living day to day, only really getting by.
"And you've also got people that worked all their life and invested all their superannuation in a good stock portfolio and many of those people lost everything in the crash a couple of years ago."
Col said that while there was government support, including the pension and other programs, he was disappointed that the cost of living and its impact on seniors had not been publicly discussed during the state election campaign.
He said: "While I'm current president of the senior citizen's club in North Rocky, there are lots of groups around the region that cater to older people's needs, putting on events and listening to how we can improve life for older people. And we do meet and talk about these issues. I think there's been a problem for a while. Politicians used to be working people, railway workers and farmers. But lately, they come out of university and go straight into a role as an adviser or bureaucrat and they don't really have any experience in real jobs."
He said that lack of experience in the real world meant politicians were less inclined to talk to older people, including retired professionals who still had something to give to society.
"We've got senior citizens who were engineers, and lawyers and bankers …" Col said. The latest statistics show that of Rockhampton region's 77,000-odd residents, some 22.6% are 55 years or older. "I think most politicians really underestimate the voting power of older people, pensioners and retirees, and I think a lot of people would like to hear more from the candidates about what they will do to help."