It’s getting more difficult for seniors to make ends meet, say advocates. *iStock photo
It’s getting more difficult for seniors to make ends meet, say advocates. *iStock photo

FRIDAY, OCTOBER 7: Seniors are bearing the brunt of the economic downturn as the value of their savings crashes, experts have warned.

A string of ‘forced retirements’ with companies looking to cut jobs through ‘attrition’ is also making it harder for people to work past 65, said ageing consultant Marian Sherratt.

The elderly are also facing the cost of falling rental prices amid an exodus of permit holders since 2008.

Ms Sherratt said many elderly Bermudians had invested in real estate in the hope that rental income could support them in their twilight years.

But with prices plummeting and apartments increasingly going empty, they are having to survive on less.

She warned that seniors were also, in some cases, facing pressure from struggling family members for support amid the downturn – something that could cost them dearly in the long run.

Coerced

“In some cases they are being coerced into helping family members when they can’t really afford it. It’s a kind of financial elder abuse,” she added.

Ms Sherratt, who runs Social Research and Consulting Services, said: “There is no doubt that the recession is hitting the older person extremely hard. Not only are employment opportunities shrinking, older people are being let go before retirement age.

“It used to be that you could work to retirement age and then move to part time or flexi-time. But that option doesn’t seem to be there any more either.

“For those that have saved, their pension income has shrunk, their rental income has reduced or disappeared.

“Some people are finding it a deep shock that what they thought was there is not there.”

She said it was hard for many middle-class seniors to admit that they were struggling.

But many who had invested in local companies like the Bank of Butterfield, BELCO or KeyTech or in the local real estate market did not have the funds they had expected for their old age.

“Pension funds have been hit by the global economic crisis and investment portfolios are down.

“The belief for many years in Bermuda was that real estate was king. You owned a piece of the rock, you developed a piece of the rock and that was your security blanket when you retired.

“Given the loss of jobs and the repatriation of so many people to their home countries that income is not the same as it once was. If you have an apartment empty for a few months and your relying on that income because you’re retired then that can have a significant impact.

“This is a growing issue.”

She said the problem was made worse by the fact that the elderly were often the first to go when companies looked to make cuts.

“Older employees are more expensive because they have accumulated pay increases over time. I think there is a bias towards younger, cheaper workers.”