Around 41% of over 50s in Scotland feel financially squeezed, according to a study by Age Scotland.
New research from the national charity for older people has revealed a substantial increase in the number of older people facing financial hardship.
Its Big Survey, launched in full today, identified that 41% of over 50s in Scotland feel financially squeezed and a further 35% think they will be within a year.
This is an increase of more than 60% in two years since the charity’s first Big Survey in 2021 where 26% felt financially squeezed.
Age Scotland and Scotinform surveyed more than 4,100 over 50s covering every local authority area in Scotland and the research paints a worrying picture of just how many older people are struggling with the current cost of living.
Nearly all respondents who are squeezed (97%) were struggling with energy bills, an increase from 82% in 2021. Food was in second place for 76%, which didn’t feature in the charity’s 2021 list of most concerning bills. In third place was Council Tax which had risen sharply to 62% from 46% in 2021.
Eight in ten people over the age of 50 (79%) reported cutting back on energy and heating, 55% on holidays, 49% on food, 46% on socialising and 41% on savings.
Of real concern for the future is the 26% of those aged 50-54 and 27% aged 55-59 cutting back on saving for retirement.
• 15% of respondents with less than £10,000 annual gross household income were using credit or taking on debt to cope with their finances.
• Only 16% felt optimistic about their future.
Katherine Crawford, CEO of Age Scotland, said: “Our Big Survey findings drive home the devastating toll the cost-of-living crisis is taking on older people’s financial wellbeing.
“Far too many pensioners are affected by poverty, and the stark reality for 2023 is older people in Scotland are getting colder, poorer and less optimistic about their future. In fact, many are cutting back on all life’s necessities and pleasures – from heating and food to holidays and social activities – and still struggling to make ends meet.
“Our helpline is hearing from an increasing number of older people who are finding it near impossible to pay their bills, having cut down on all but the essentials, and are at risk of falling into unmanageable debt as a result.
“Looking at the huge number of working age older people cutting back on saving for retirement also paints a grim image of the future, so it’s vital to ensure we have a labour market that is prepared for and able to properly support older people to work flexibly for as long as they want and need to.
“As we head into the colder months, it’s vital older people are claiming every penny they are entitled to. A quick call to our free 0800 12 44 222 can help you make sure you’re not missing out.
“Given the strain facing older households due to cost of living, if there was ever a time for big ideas and action from the Scottish and UK governments on how to tackle poverty and get more money in older people’s pockets – it is now.”
Social Justice Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville said: “We are very concerned about the hardship older people are facing in this cost of living crisis. Ensuring financial security in older age is a key priority for Scottish Government and we’re taking a wide range of actions.
“This year we have tripled the Fuel Insecurity Fund to £30m which provides support to any household using any fuel who are at risk of self-disconnection or self-rationing their energy use.
“Other actions include support with the cost of travel, with free bus travel universally available to everyone over the age of 60 in Scotland, help with energy efficiency through Warmer Homes Scotland and replacing DWP’s Cold Weather Payment with our new Winter Heating Payment. This provides a reliable annual £55 payment helping around 400,000 low-income individuals, including those in receipt of Pension Credit, with their heating expenses each winter.
“We have also allocated more than £12.3m this year to supporting free welfare, debt and income maximisation advice services – including investing £4.45m of funding for Citizens Advice Scotland and their network of local bureaux to provide services such as the Money Talk Team service. In the first 3 months of this financial year alone this service supported almost 3000 older people, reporting financial gains of over £1.7m.
“We have invested £971,000 in Social Isolation and Loneliness funding to help tackle the social impact of rising cost of living. Announced in January 2023, this investment was targeted at helping to provide warm spaces, hot meals and group activities to people most at risk of isolation including older people.”
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