Medical treatment ditched for essentials

Older Australians are foregoing medical treatment as they grapple to cover basic essentials, a new National Seniors report reveals.

More than half a million low-income senior households are spending on average four-fifths of their incomes on essentials such as water, gas, insurance, medical services and rates - all of which have risen by more than double the inflation rate over the past five years.

As a result, 15 per cent of mostly pensioner households are no longer spending on medical fees, public transport, eating out, clothing, cigarettes and alcohol, and car and home maintenance.

The report - A squeeze on spending? An update on household living costs for senior Australians - also finds the number of households reliant on the age pension grew by 55,000 between 2006 and 2011 as a result of more baby boomers reaching age 65.

The biggest price increase was for electricity, which rose by 83 per cent – more than six times the overall rate of inflation. 

In 2011, almost a quarter of a million senior households said they had been unable to pay their utility bills on time and the proportion of pensioners unable to pay their utilities bills rose by 13 per cent over five years.

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