She first began working in a local factory at the age of 17, among other jobs. It was in her factory job when she started to get a pension, which at the time people were offered but contributions were not something which were automatic.
“I tried my hardest to get pensions and stuff like that but it’s a lot of money when you’re not earning a huge amount.
“I wasn’t well educated or anything so I literally had to think about the pennies.”
With two daughters to think of, Joan explains her focus was on their future.
“I had two girls and I wanted to make sure they were educated as much as I could with all the music lessons and dance lessons and everything else I wanted them to have,” she says.
“So paying into pensions was hard until I got past the stage where the girls needed me as much, and then I could pay in. I didn’t pay in for a huge amount of years.”
Sadly, in the early 2000s, Joan’s husband had a stroke while in his late 40s.
“He was on really good money then,” she recalls. “We lost all that income. So I had to cash the pension in to pay the mortgage. It’s been one of those lifetimes.”
Thankfully, Joan’s husband has recovered well, although he still lives with health conditions today.
The couple weren’t able to receive financial support at the time, “so we were literally living on one wage until he could recover enough”.
“Obviously when he went back to work, because you have the stigma of having a stroke, he had such a lot of difficulty getting another job,” Joan recalls. “So paying into pensions wasn’t an option for us.”
Joan ended up using the pension savings she had made so far to pay off their mortgage, and later, the couple downsized and released equity out of their house “so that we could have money to live on”.
18 months older than her husband, Joan had been assuming she would get her UK state pension at the age of 60, but discovered via a newspaper in her 50s this would not be the case.
She had her own health problems at that time, and working wasn’t an option.
“I was getting more poorly myself and it was just looking after my husband as well, it was just impossible,” she says.
“That’s why we decided to downsize, which wasn’t an inconvenience really, but to take money out of our equity, that was horrendous.
“I now feel like I don’t own my own property, it’s horrible.”
Unable to work, the couple lived on savings until Joan was able to claim her UK state pension.
“There must be a million people who feel like I do,” she says.
“But I was so cross because I’d abided by all the rules, made sure I’d paid it all in.
“I was looking forward to 60, to have some sort of freedom from the sort of grotty life that we were having. I was so cross.”
When she reached 65, Joan was able to get a small pension annuity of £100, but money has been a constant worry since finding out about the state pension age changes.
“We didn’t have holidays, we tried to put as much money into savings as we could so we would be able to survive,” she says.
“It still is frightening – we’re still living on fresh air. We’ve only my pension coming in so we’re living on fresh air.”
Joan’s husband will be able to get his state pension in June this year, but financial worries will remain, she fears.
“We’re still turning the heating off and putting cardigans on and wrapping ourselves in blankets because we don’t want to spend anymore than we have to. Horrendous,” she says.
Like the WASPI [which stands for Women Against State Pension Inequality] campaign, Joan isn’t against state pension age equalisation.
“I understand the reasons behind it – things have got to move on,” she says.
“But I think it needed to be a slower transition. Like my daughters, and people before, they’ve got time to build up a pension pot.
“They’re not relying on the Government to give them a pension at the end of it. They’re more reliant on their own [savings].”
“It would have been nice if it had been a slower transition.”
A DWP spokesperson said: “The Government decided 25 years ago that it was going to make the state pension age the same for men and women as a long-overdue move towards gender equality and this has been clearly communicated.
“Raising state pension age in line with life expectancy changes has been the policy of successive administrations over many years.”