Some of Wanganui's elderly are making drastic cuts to their basic living conditions as they try to make ends meet on a pension and little else.
In some cases they are reduced to watering down their milk to make it go further and staying in bed longer to save power by not turning on heaters.
These examples have been provided by Age Concern Wanganui and echo findings of a recent survey in retirement spending by Massey University.
The survey revealed what older people were spending their meagre income on and how much; and while it may have been a shock to some, it has not fazed Age Concern.
Tracy Lynn, Age Concern Wanganui manager, told the Chronicle most older people were trying to live on the pension and a little extra, and those trying to live on a pension alone were really struggling to make ends meet.
Age Concern argues that $348 per week (the New Zealand super for a single person) is not enough to buy the basics such as electricity, telephone, rates, food, and non-food items such as shoes, soap, transport, cultural and medical expenses.
Ann Martin, chief executive of Age Concern NZ, said the elderly were particularly vulnerable to hardship, especially if their health costs were high or they were faced with unexpected one-off expenses such as house repairs, a trip to the dentist, or a new pair of glasses.
"These are the kinds of expenses that can tip people from hardship into poverty," Ms Martin said.
"What happens is the pensioner cuts back on these necessities. They don't turn heating on, some reduce their grocery spend. Buckets end up being a long-term fix for a leaking roof. And they pull back on social activities, medications and doctor visits.
"Unfortunately, this often leads to their having greater susceptibility to illness, hospitalisation and rest home admission, and this, in turn, may be a significant cost to Government," she said.
She said Age Concern had told the Government that a solution would be a pension that meets the cost of the basics, more regular CPI adjustments and a community services card with scope to reduce the cost of electricity/gas; general dental care, eye care and visits to GPs for holders aged 65 and over.
Ms Lynn said her staff regularly reported the lengths some elderly people went to to cut corners in their daily lives. She said this included watering down milk or staying in bed longer to save power. She said a number also purposely missed doctors' appointments to save money.
There were also those who insisted on retaining a nest egg for those "just in case times" or because they wanted to have money to leave their families. They were the ones often reluctant to spend money on essentials.
Ms Lynn said often there was an expectation from families that there would be an inheritance, but sometimes a family's expectation about a potential inheritance created problems.
"It's all about choice, so if people feel the need to leave an inheritance then they can choose to do that," she said.
"However, it would be good if families could look beyond the inheritance and see what is going on for elderly family members in the now. Encourage them to SKI [spend the kids' inheritance]."
She said generally the elderly today were, for the most part, financially aware and lived within their means.
"But often their 'means' don't allow for extras or luxuries. It's a bit sad that a trip to the dentist or making do with glasses because new ones are too expensive [and] are classed as luxuries," Ms Lynn said.
She said it was important for those people nearing retirement to be thinking about their future and to be as prepared as they could be.
She said it was just as important for family and friends to keep an eye on their elderly relatives or neighbours.