Open our doors for older people - Brian Sloan

The cost of living crisis is forcing older people in Scotland to make some impossible choices about how they spend their money and live their lives. The past nine months have already been extremely challenging, particularly for those on low and fixed incomes, as prices for the things we rely on have surged at incredible rates.

Earlier this year, 94 per cent of respondents to an Age Scotland national survey said they were worried about their energy bills, and many sacrificing all but the most essential purchases to keep their lights and heating on. Their choices have been when to heat and when to eat.

A toxic cocktail of high energy prices, increasing food and fuel costs, and cold weather, could make this autumn and winter- when energy bills are set to rocket even further - a dangerous time for large numbers of older people. The tragic reality is many will die needlessly if large-scale preventive action by our governments is not taken now. Without it, hundreds of thousands of older people will be at further risk of being pushed into poverty, poorer health and food insecurity.

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There is some help out there, but much more is needed. For example, we welcome the move from supermarket chain Iceland to offer its customers aged over-60 a 10 per cent discount off their shopping every Tuesday in a bid to keep their bills as affordable as possible, but similar ideas from others are needed. Food is a basic human right, yet far too many older people are at risk of becoming malnourished and are facing serious health and well-being risks because of not being able to afford current food prices. Many items on shelves have been increasing in cost far in excess of the high general inflation rates we are living through.

Age Scotland is urging supermarkets to work on offering cost-saving initiatives to help older shoppers
Age Scotland is urging supermarkets to work on offering cost-saving initiatives to help older shoppers
Age Scotland is urging supermarkets to work on offering cost-saving initiatives to help older shoppers

As the national charity for older people, we’re urging supermarkets to work on offering cost-saving initiatives to help older shoppers cover essential food items and mitigate these soaring bills. Never has the famous slogan ‘Every Little Helps’ been more apt than amid the current cost-of-living crisis.

While it is hugely depressing that it has needed to come to this, we have welcomed the idea of setting up “warm banks” – community spaces, such as libraries, where people can visit and stay warm during the cold autumn and winter months. I prefer to call these “Social Spaces”, which could not only be a great way of keeping older people warm throughout the day, but also help tackle loneliness and isolation which we know to be only too prevalent across the country.

We would like to see these spaces offer healthy food options and activities so that older people can connect with others and have something fun and interesting to do while they visit. We’re urging the Scottish Government and councils to make sure as many doors are open in communities and they financially support organisations and groups to make them a success.

We know this is a tough time for many older people and the financial challenges are only going to get worse. There are far too many older people who are missing out on the social security they are entitled to, which could be a tremendous help right now.

Pension credit is a means-tested benefit that can top up a low State Pension and link to added help with living costs, including council tax reduction, a free TV licence for over 75s, help with heating and housing costs, free NHS dental treatment, glasses and getting patient transport for hospital appointments. But around 123,000 older households aren’t claiming this entitlement as a result of a lack of awareness that it exists, finding it difficult to apply, pride or the damaging stigma that is associated with claiming benefits.

There is no better time to pick up the phone and find out what you could be entitled to. Age Scotland’s helpline advisors can carry out free checks to determine what financial support is available and help callers with how to claim what they are owed. It starts with a simple call to us on 0800 12 44 222. Alternatively, if you are online, you can use our website’s benefits calculator at

We face some very dark and difficult months ahead so it is vital that, as a country, we do everything we possibly can to protect those least able to afford this crisis.

Brian Sloan, Chief executive, Age Scotland



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