Love the Valley, but life’s tough on the purse-strings
PAULINE Delaforce loves living in the Clarence Valley.
She was born and raised in the region, and after just six months in Sydney as a young woman she was more than ready to come home.
But there is no denying that as a senior citizen, life in regional areas can be difficult.
With no superannuation to draw from, the former president of the Grafton Senior Citizen's Group and her husband have been on the pension since he retired at the age of 65, 23 years ago.
And while she has appreciated the modest government increases in pension payments over the years, only last week she found out that when the pension goes up, rent assistance goes down.
"I went to Centrelink and asked the question, and that's as close as you can get to the horse's mouth," she said.
"It happens any time you get an increase, so you end up with about $2 out of your $4. And everything's getting more expensive."
Recently, it was having to travel to Coffs Harbour for medical appointments that put a dent in the weekly budget; something she would like to see change for Clarence Valley residents in the near future.
"Health is a big issue for people like us - you have to go somewhere away from Grafton. And yet I can go back to the days when the hospital was 'the' hospital."
Another common issue was finding appropriate and affordable accommodation into retirement.
"We are very lucky to own our own home but we still have to pay rent on the land which is going up so often," she said.
"But there's a lot of people unfortunately in this community who do pay rent and are older people because they have never been able to afford their own home."
Even superannuation doesn't go far enough towards better living in retirement, she said.
"Overall most aged people to a degree are doing it pretty tough, even if you're a local person and have super," she said.
"There's no interest backing up at all, so people are just spending the super they have and a lot of them like to do a little bit of travelling while they're able to. But once it's gone, its gone."
Going into the future, Mrs Delaforce said she could see issues sneaking up very quickly for areas like the Clarence Valley as the population continues to age.
"It's going to come very smartly that people won't be able to find accommodation in the area," she said.
"They either won't be able to afford it or should they be able to, it won't be there for them.
"Looking at the long term and younger people trying to buy a house, I think they will find it extremely difficult in the future.
"When they have to sell it, I don't think they'll get the money they need for it."