Steep rise in older people living solo

Steep rise in older people living solo

The number of people living alone in later life is on a steep rise, raising concerns many will be facing additional costs in retirement.

According to figures published by the Office for National Statistics today (April 4) the number of people living by themselves rose 16 per cent to 7.7m between 1997 and 2007 and could rise to 10.7m in the next two decades.

This rise was concentrated in older age groups. The number of 45 to 65 year olds living on their own increased by 53 percent. By comparison, the number of people aged 25 to 44 living alone fell by 16 percent in the same time period.

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The figures also showed there were about 3.8m people aged over 65 living alone in 2017, a rise of almost 21 per cent over two decades, and almost six in 10 of those over 65 living alone were aged over 75.

The data was based on surveys conducted in 2017 which aimed to compare the cost of living alone to those of a couple, without children or dependents, who cohabited. 

It found two-adult households spent nearly 10 per cent less of their disposable income than those who bunked solo and only 51 percent of those who lived alone said they had money left over at the end of the month. This compared to nearly two-thirds of people who lived with their partner. 

Aside from housing costs, the people living on their own spent a greater proportion of their income on living necessities — food, drink and home furnishings. But the survey found couples tended to spend more on recreation, restaurants and hotels as well as clothes and transport.

Sarah Coles, personal finance analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, said: "The sheer cost of living alone means basics like the bills and rent or mortgage swallow a huge chunk of your income, leaving you little or nothing by the end of the month. 

"It means you’re less likely to have money set aside for emergencies and less likely to be able to save for a home of your own."

Ms Coles said as young people failed to move out of the family home, parents could be waiting years for their ‘empty nest’ to free up cash to pay off debts and save for retirement.

"So, if the nest stays crowded, it can end up pushing potential retirement back for years," she added.

Stephen Lowe, group communications director at Just, said: "This is more evidence of our ageing population and reminds us of the need for society to prepare and adapt for later life."

Mr Lowe said more people living alone in later life raised challenges for society as single pensioner households have lower incomes than other households, and two-thirds of those in later life who live alone are women with smaller pension pots.

Yesterday, new data from Close Brothers showed women fared worse than men in all aspects of financial wellbeing and found the average pension pot for a woman was less than half that of a man’s.