The Cost of Living Crisis and Its Impact on the Elderly
It seems that we can’t open a newspaper or turn on the TV without hearing about the UK’s “cost of living crisis” – from stories of families where parents are foregoing meals in order to feed their kids, to money-saving tips from ‘experts’ that are designed to keep our gas and electricity bills down.
But with people from every walk of life tightening their belts that little bit more this winter, we ask ourselves: how is the cost of living crisis affecting some of the most vulnerable members of society, the elderly?
Fixed Incomes and Rising Energy Bills
Those who are over retirement age are among one of the groups hardest hit by the rising cost of living. Over 65’s are more likely to be living on a fixed income than other age groups, and tend to spend more on their home energy bills than other households, particularly as they are more likely to be at home during the day than out at work.
When you consider the huge percentage of elderly people who are living on a state pension (that doesn’t necessarily rise in line with inflation or price increases), it’s scary to know that the average yearly energy bill is costing the elderly members of our society around 20% of the paltry £9,627 they receive.
The Choice Between Eating or Heating
The choice between ‘eating or heating’ is a terrifying reality for older people, with food banks reporting a surge in visits from those over the age of 75, and ‘heat banks’ starting to pop up: places where people can sit in the warmth and enjoy a hot beverage, and that are mostly frequented by older people.
While it’s wonderful to see communities pulling together to support older people (there have been many stories in the press of cafes and pubs offering cheap or free soups and coffees to those over 65’s), it’s sad that for many older people – people who have worked all their lives raised their families, and now should be enjoying their golden years – have to rely on these services.
Loneliness and Isolation Among the Elderly
For older people who don’t have access to these options, or who don’t have family or friends – either nearby or at all – the consequences of the situation can be even more devastating than just being cold or hungry this winter. The rising cost of living is forcing those on a pension to only spend their income on essentials such as food, bills and housing, meaning that there is nothing left to cover transport costs or leisure.
The impact of this is that more and more older people are left feeling lonely and isolated, leading to an increased rise in those suffering from mental illnesses such as anxiety and depression.
Age UK’s Campaign: It Doesn’t Add Up
Age UK has launched its ‘It doesn’t add up’ campaign in order to find out what those over 70 are facing on a daily basis due to the cost of living crisis. A whopping 96% of those surveyed reported that the rise in food costs had left them struggling to afford to feed themselves, and 80% reported huge concerns that they wouldn’t be able to stay warm this winter because of rising energy bills.
Too Little, Too Late: Government Support for the Elderly
The government’s promise of a one-off £300 payment to households on a pension as means of extra financial support has been deemed ‘too little, too late’ by some critics, and more and more elderly people are having to rely on support from younger family members – people who are also struggling with the increased cost of living, leading to a vicious circle that is posing a risk to mental and physical health.
So, where can older people turn for help and advice?
Age UK has a helpline that offers practical support and advice at 0800 678 1602, and advice on getting help with energy bills can be found here: https://www.ageuk.org.uk/information-advice/money-legal/debt-savings/energy/
Citizens Advice also offers relevant information and support to those over 65 that might be on a low income or struggling with the cost of living crisis.
And for those who are struggling on a pension, visit the Gov.uk website to see if you are eligible for pension credit; an extra benefit that is available for those who are over state pension age and are struggling to cover their basic needs.