Bahia, 440 euros pension per month: “I’m hungry, but I keep my dignity”

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Retirement, many French people spend their working lives dreaming about. For Bahia, 62, however, the dream quickly gave way to a nightmare. At the beginning of March 2022, this resident of Woippy (Moselle) finds herself retired. She discovers that she will only receive 440 euros in monthly pension. The fall is brutal.

In this city of 10,000 inhabitants, 20% of people over 60 live, like her, below the poverty line, established in France at 1102 euros per month per person. “In my life, I had several odd jobs, often precarious contracts, and then I took care of my mother for several years, without being declared,” Bahia tells us.

At the time, she received, because of chronic pain, the Disabled Adult Allowance (AAH), in addition to the RSA. “I had about 900 euros in income every month, and I was still able to get by. But these aids cannot be combined with retirement. And there, it is the tumble”.

She lives alone. “Fortunately,” she breathes. “Because even on my own, I can’t do it. I wonder every morning why I get up, it’s always the same ritual. I do nothing, I have nothing. I see people, they shop, they do things. I live vicariously looking at them, and I have only my eyes to cry on.”

The 60-year-old has to make a lot of sacrifices on a daily basis to keep her head above water, or at least try. “I keep selling everything I have at home to pay my debts,” she explains.

“And then, I’m not insured, I don’t have mutual insurance, so I don’t even go to the doctor anymore. Yesterday, I fell, and I especially did not want to go to the emergency room because I knew that I would not have the means to pay. A social worker had to convince me to go for treatment when she saw my condition, and by explaining my situation to the doctors, I was able to get out of it”.

His accommodation, an apartment in Woippy, is borderline unsanitary. “There has been water damage for a year, and the landlord does not take care of it. Because of that, I had to live in my room, in the middle of winter, without being able to cook, for months,” says Bahia indignantly. “I live in a damp, moldy apartment, I fell down the stairs several times because there was no light… And nobody does anything”.

Bahia’s family, of Algerian origin, “fought for France”. But today, for the young retiree, it is disillusionment in the “land of human rights”.

Bahia has never been married and has no children, and she regrets that the state does not support single people enough. “I have contributed, but I am not entitled to any assistance. I asked the administration if there were no solutions, but there is always something wrong, I do not fit into the box. I live alone, so I am not entitled to aid. I’m alone, so I have to die?

Today, after three months of struggle with only 440 euros to live on, Bahia is desperate. She even filed a request to increase her retirement pension. “My life is disaster upon disaster. When you’re deep in the hole, you don’t feel like fighting anymore. I don’t believe it anymore, but I still hope that my pension will be increased, otherwise I won’t know what to do, except go to work, but with all the health problems I have… meaning abandoned”, pours out the retiree. “My father died for France, and today, as a form of gratitude, no one helps us”.

To live, and to eat, Bahia tries to organize itself. But the thing is not easy. As soon as she receives her pension, she pays her rent and her bills. Thanks to the APL, his rent costs him 240 euros monthly against 430 without this aid. And then, you have to pay the bills: electricity, internet, telephone… and the unpaid bills, which continue to arrive every month.

“Too bad if afterwards, I have nothing to eat, she confesses. It’s been months since I’ve done any shopping, the fridge is empty.”

So, to feed itself a minimum, Bahia relies on the D system, and solidarity. “Fortunately, there is solidarity,” says the sixty-year-old. “My brother, my sister or my neighbors sometimes give me food, but I don’t dare ask them, because I know that everyone is struggling to make ends meet.”

For a time, the retiree turned to the Restos du Coeur and the Secours populaire. But she has a series of disappointments. “At restaurants, we weren’t given much. But mostly, when I got home and unpacked the products, everything was stale. I am hungry, but I keep my dignity, and I refuse to eat things that can make me sick,” says Bahia. At the Secours populaire, it’s another problem that makes him walk out: “they asked us for a contribution of 2 or 3 euros, admittedly it’s minimal for most people, but I don’t even have them! ”.

This miserable life is far from the retirement that Bahia had imagined for her. “I don’t know anything apart from Woippy, complains the sixty-something. It’s not the retirement I imagined. I said to myself: I will be able to enjoy, travel… Today, traveling is on my balcony…” .

By testifying, she wants to launch an appeal, almost a cry, so that we can finally hear people who, like her, live in extreme precariousness. “It’s hard. The further we go into the future, the more we sink into the mess. Nobody helps us. Politicians do not realize the reality of our lives, with their 10,000 euro suits! We are forgotten as soon as they are elected. Poor people don’t care. It does too much damage to the landscape.” concludes Bahia. Her immediate wish: that her pension be increased, even by 50 euros, so that she can live a little more with dignity.