"People in their 70s and 80s are having to balance how to keep up these repayments alongside maintaining their standard of living in retirement."
Up to half of older homeowners are using equity release to repay debt as they struggle to meet payments, according to analysis from Key.
Its research found that 30% of people are using equity release to repay unsecured debt while 20% are using it to repay mortgages.
Its customers aged 55-plus owe an average of £10,319 on credit cards and £13,578 on loans. The UK average for people with unsecured debts is £11,830 meaning that some over-55s could have more than double the average amount of unsecured debt.
The biggest single debt burden identified is outstanding mortgages – customers clearing home loans on average owe £87,181, the data shows.
Borrowers are paying off an average £300 a month on credit cards; £282 on loans and £586 in mortgage repayments, taking a substantial bite out of monthly income.
Those with credit card debt need to use an average of 40% of their state pension on repayments before meeting other regular costs such as housing, utilities and general living expenses.
Will Hale, CEO at Key, said: “Juggling debt at any age can be stressful but with typically a fixed income, older people are likely to find it even more stressful than most. Clearly people in their 70s and 80s are having to balance how to keep up these repayments alongside maintaining their standard of living in retirement.
“For homeowners, it makes sense to look at downsizing, equity release or other later life lending options to clear their debts and set them up for a more comfortable and less stressful retirement. Good independent expert advice is key to ensuring that older homeowners receive the most benefit from their property wealth and use it in the most appropriate way for them and their families.”