Letter to the Editor

By James Arbuthnott

Vulnerable pensioners are in need of assistance in our rural communities.

Bereaved pensioners are a vulnerable group in our communities. Their struggle is quiet and constant at one of the most difficult times in their lives. A lifetime of marriage, homemaking, and purposeful employment is replaced with grief, isolation, and failing physical and mental health. The rural setting can magnify the hardship – greater distances separate the individual from their support network and essential services, and an inequitable cost of living comes hand-in-hand with living out of town. Although rural living can make for a good life, like all choices, it comes at a potential cost – especially when your worth in society has been made redundant because of your age, health and employment status. For any disenfranchised group in our communities, it is our moral responsibility to support action and policy that helps eliminate unfair disadvantage and harm.

″The true measure of any society can be found in how it treats its most vulnerable members.″ (Mahatma Gandhi)

A recently widowed pensioner is in need of assistance.

We all know the experience of a personal crisis. And sometimes, we need the courage and humility to ask for help during those difficult times. I’m an educator, mother and wife, and in this story a daughter, asking for community assistance to make a difference to the welfare of my surviving parent. Currently, the Australian pension does not meet our senior citizens' needs when they are at their most vulnerable – settling their estate after the loss of a lifelong spouse. Financially, it all adds up … funeral expenses, nursing home and respite care debt, ongoing medical bills for deteriorating health … all on top of the emotional cost that comes with experience of deep bereavement itself.

About 15 years ago, my parents did a tree change to a small country town in north-central Victoria, after working very hard for decades and raising their children the best they could in Melbourne. They took work on local farms to earn a modest income to support their move, however Dad suffered a serious farm accident and Mum developed emphysema and then cancer. Their health was destroyed, and they were finally unable to continue working. They ran a tight budget to try to keep their dream alive a little longer, but struggled to keep afloat with the additional medical expenses, the ongoing costs of remote rural living, and eventually nursing home care for Mum.

Earlier this year, after 50 years of marriage, Mum passed away. Basic funeral expenses, outstanding nursing home debt, and Dad's deteriorating health have resulted in significant financial stress. My parents have never asked for charity in their lives. They have never taken an overseas holiday, owned just two cars, and never bought any investment properties. So, my call for help is not a matter of funding a lifestyle of excessive spending, but of genuine financial distress in a time of deep bereavement. We need some help to make a very difficult situation a little more manageable.

How you can help:

Please visit our GoFundMe page at Any contribution will be greatly appreciated. Please write to you MP about your own concerns on the status of our senior citizens and the costs of living (and dying) versus the Australian Age Pension. Ask whether it meets their needs and our duty of care to this group – our family elders, our country’s former taxpayers … a vulnerable group at the mercy of our compassion.

— JL Shaw, Corop