Nearly a third of older people are in debt, with 15 per cent worrying that they will never be able to repay what they owe.
Around 30 per cent of the over-55s have some form of unsecured debt that they are struggling to clear, and 21 per cent are still repaying their mortgage, according to insurer Aviva.
One in four admitted that they did not think they would be able to repay all of their debts until they were at least 75, and 15 per cent never expect to get back into the black.
Among those who had unsecured borrowings, 30 per cent owed money on a credit card, with average outstanding balances of around £3,300, while 13 per cent had a loan, on which they owed nearly £6,000, and 10 per cent were overdrawn, with the typical person more than £2,200 in the red.
Worryingly, those aged over 75 were the most likely to have run up credit card debts that they were struggling to pay off at 35 per cent.
Nearly a third of people blamed their debt on the rising cost of living, with 29 per cent saying they had needed to borrow money to cover an essential purchase, while 18 per cent said they had run up debts after becoming unemployed or not being able to work as much as they had wanted.
But one in five people said they had got into debt meeting family obligations, with 5 per cent saying they had borrowed cash themselves to help their children out financially and 4 per cent had used the money to fund a major family event such as a wedding or university fees.