Page last updated at 08:08 GMT, Wednesday, 6 August 2008 09:08 UK

'Why I'm still working aged 76'

By Paul Burnell
The One Show

She should have been retired for 16 years, but Vera Kirk says she cannot afford to stop working.

Vera Kirk
Vera Kirk says she needs to keep working

Which is why Vera, 76, is still employed on the checkout in Asda, in Kendal, Cumbria where she has worked for 18 years.

"I don't get a lot of pension, 113 a week," she told BBC One's The One Show.

She added: "My lifestyle would have to change if I didn't work."

Vera is not alone, as according to figures released by the Office for National Statistics in July, there are 1.3m workers of pensionable age in the UK.

Analysts such as Professor John MacNicol, pin the blame on the low state pension.

'Stingy pensions'

"Unfortunately, we have one of the least generous state pensions in Europe," said Professor MacNicol, visiting professor in Social Policy at the London School of Economics.

"The state pension for a single person is just over 90 a week, now that's well below what would be considered a poverty line for a single person, which would be 145 per week."

Vera first worked at Asda when the store opened in 1990 and retired to care for her retired husband Harold in 2001.

When he died six months later of lung cancer, Vera said she had to return to work as both her state pension and his private pension were reduced.

Prof John MacNicol
Unfortunately, we have one of the least generous state pensions in Europe
Prof John MacNicol

It is a situation that has been made worse by the credit crunch and the general economic downturn.

"Gas and electric have gone up considerably. I used to spend around 50 or 60 a month on petrol, now it's around 103/104 a month.

Rising costs

"Everything goes up, your rent, your rates, just everything."

She added: "If they gave you a decent pension then people like me would be able to go out and do things that they wanted to do, without having to come to work.

"It's a terrible thing when you have worked all your life and you have paid in all your life, and you have to survive to live - you should be able to enjoy a few luxuries at least."

Across the town at a local senior citizens club there is anger that some OAPs have to keep working to make ends meet.

Gloomy future

"It can't be right," one of the Kendal seniors told The One Show, while another added, "Especially when you have these people that have never worked and seem to be doing very well on what the government are giving them and the pensioners are at the back of the queue all the time."

"I can just manage. I wouldn't want to give up my independence, I wouldn't want to go back to work," said another.

Vera is still working at an age when most people would hope not to be working, and her younger workmates are fatalistic about their own working lives.

Said one: "I don't think I could afford to retire, it's just so expensive living costs and everything at the moment, you just can't put enough aside you just have to focus on the moment."

You can learn more about this issue by watching The One Show, BBC One, Wednesday 1900 BST.


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