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Three-quarters of over 65s admit they're worried about rising cost of living

Published on 29 January 2022 12:00 AM


 “I cry a lot these days. I can’t imagine how I’ll pay the bills when the energy price goes up again, I lose sleep over it and I can’t find a solution.” – Marion, aged 69[i]

Three-quarters of older people in the UK – 9.4 million people – are worried about the rising cost of living, according to new research for Age UK.[ii]

Over half (54 per cent) of those surveyed said they’ll have to heat their home less[iii], and a quarter (24 per cent) said they’ll have to choose between heating their home and the food they buy, if their energy bills increase substantially. In total, two-fifths (43 per cent) said they would have to cut back, go into debt or simply will not be able to afford to pay their bill.[iv]

With the price cap announcement looming and bills widely anticipated to rise by as much as 50 per cent from April, Age UK is warning that many older people are missing out on much needed extra income as well as vital support such as Cold Weather Payments[v] and the Warm Home Discount Scheme[vi] because they are not receiving Pension Credit[vii] despite being eligible.

It’s a sad fact that more than a million older people on low incomes who would benefit hugely from some extra financial help are going without it because they are unaware that they qualify for Pension Credit, and that a successful claim opens the door to a wide range of other support including help with energy bills. The Government’s own figures show that nearly a million (920,000) eligible pensioner households (single people or couples)[viii] are not receiving their Pension Credit payments, worth around £1.6 billion every year[ix] – an average of £32 a week, or over £1,600 a year, per household. The Charity is concerned this is leaving huge numbers of vulnerable older people without the essential support they need over the winter months, with many rationing their heating or food as a result.

As part of its ‘The Cost of Cold’ campaign, Age UK is urging any older person on a low or modest income who is struggling with their bills to come forward for a full benefits check in case they are one of the many who are missing out. People can call Age UK’s Advice Line on freephone 0800 169 65 65, contact their local Age UK office or visit

Those in receipt of Pension Credit, which can be backdated for three months and tops up the weekly income of a single pensioner to £177.10 or a pensioner couple to £270.30, (or higher in some circumstances) could also be entitled to the following:

  • A Cold Weather Payment of £25, paid automatically when the average temperature is 0°C or below over seven consecutive days
  • £140 off electricity bill thorough the Warm Home Discount Scheme, if eligible
  • A free TV licence (if also over-75)
  • Free NHS dental treatment and help towards the cost of glasses and travel to hospital
  • Help with Council Tax
  • Help with rent
  • Cheaper phone and home broadband deals
  • Reduced water bills
  • An extra amount of Pension Credit for some carers worth up to £37.70 a week

Age UK has been inundated with stories from thousands of older people who are already struggling and cutting back on heating, food and other essentials:

Ron, aged 75+, said: “Surviving on the state pension with guaranteed pension credit just about keeps your head above water. With the expected rise in utility bills I, like many more, will be slowly sinking.”

Tony, aged 75+, said: “I have always carefully budgeted to cover my utility bills and have been grateful for the various payments from the Government. In particular the warm home discount makes a big difference. I did fix my gas and electricity rates last year but this ends at the beginning of February. So, with the anticipated increases to come this year I can see my bills possibly doubling and putting unsustainable strain on my resources. I only receive a basic state pension and pension credits and have fully explored all available government schemes. Unfortunately these fall short of covering these unprecedented increases. The possibility of a one off payment or an increase to the warm home scheme would really help.”

Another older person, who wished to remain anonymous, said: “I have a very small pension and live on savings and I rent privately. My cost of living will be unaffordable before long. Terrified to have the heating on too long to keep my home warm. Everything is spiralling out of control in price leaving us pensioners to struggle to live. The 200 pound heating allowance I receive will not help much towards the high costs of energy now.”

In recent months Age UK has urged Ministers to announce a financial package to support vulnerable older people through this crisis. The Charity believes the following two policy recommendations, if implemented immediately, could protect older people on low and modest incomes from facing unaffordable energy bills over the coming year and encourage them to keep their heating on this winter:

  • Cut the 5% rate of VAT from all households’ energy bills from April till at least the end of 2022. If as expected, average bills rise to around £2,000, this would save a household just under £100. Ofgem must use the price cap to pass any VAT cut on to customers.
  • Provide additional support (payments of up to £500) to people on the lowest incomes. Using the eligibility criteria for the Cold Weather Payment would help guarantee automatic support to some of the homes that most need the help with their energy bills.

Caroline Abrahams, Charity Director at Age UK, said: “The rapid rise in the cost of living is causing a huge amount of anxiety among older people, plunging increasing numbers into dire financial straits. With the energy crisis deepening and nothing but price hikes on the horizon, the time has surely come for the Government to stop dragging its feet. It’s high time Ministers took action and provided a much-needed safety net for the millions of older people who are fighting to stay afloat.

“Many older people are reliant on the State Pension as their main source of income and simply do not have the flex in their finances to cope with such enormous price rises. At Age UK, we are being contacted every day by desperate older people in this position, people for whom there are only 'bad choices' – ration your energy use, cut back on food or other essentials, or go into debt.

“We need urgent and decisive government action to protect the millions of older people who are struggling financially but who are either not eligible for or not claiming Pension Credit. Cutting the 5% rate of VAT on energy bills would be a good start and is important because it would help those just above the benefits line, though there are many other options available to the Government too.

“In the meantime, we are urging older people to check their full entitlements – claiming Pension Credit alone could have a life-changing impact by opening the door to a wealth of additional support. Any older person who is finding it difficult to pay their bills, or who is worried about staying warm, can call us today – if we help you to submit a successful claim it could make all the difference. There really is no downside to checking you are receiving everything you are entitled to, so please come forward and let us help you make sure. Even if you are there may be other sources of help we can direct you to instead.”

Age UK is urging older people to call its free national advice line on 0800 169 65 65 before turning the heating down or off, to check they are receiving all the financial support available to them, including key benefits such as Pension Credit and Attendance Allowance. In addition, energy suppliers have a duty to offer support if people are struggling with bills or debt, so the Charity is urging people to contact their supplier directly to ask about available support including an affordable repayment plan.

To make a claim for Pension Credit, people should call the Pension Credit claim line on 0800 99 1234 or visit


Notes to editors

Since 13 January 2022, over 86,000 people have added their name to a letter to the Prime Minister urging him to take urgent action to protect older people from the energy crisis. The letter will be hand-delivered to No. 10 on Monday 31 January and is still open for signatures:



[i] Marion, aged 69, told Age UK: “My energy bill has already jumped by one third overnight and I am on a low fixed income. I am currently in bed keeping warm today as it’s so cold and I can’t afford to have my heating on for the whole day. I’m reduced to showering on alternate days which I hate and I’m eating food that’s microwaveable to avoid heating my oven. I don’t drink or smoke or have holidays or go out socially. I shop once a month at Aldi and when that food is gone, I have to live on beans toast potatoes etc. I can’t afford to keep fresh fruit and veg on the menu now so once I’ve eaten the little bit I buy when I get my pension, I have to wait for the next month’s pension to get more. I feel as though my life is just paying bills every month, there’s nothing to look forward to. I watch tv and read and walk my little dog when I feel well enough. I’m 70 this year and I didn’t think it would be like this. I cry a lot these days. I can’t imagine how I’ll pay the bills when the energy price goes up again, I lose sleep over it and I can’t find a solution.”

[ii] Online survey conducted by Opinium on behalf of Age UK between 14th and 18 January 2022. Sample of 1,280 UK residents (65++), weighted to be nationally representative of the 65+ age group.

[iii] For example, by turning down the heating, keeping it switched on for fewer hours, or heating only part of their home.

[iv] Online survey conducted by Opinium on behalf of Age UK between 14th and 18 January 2022. Sample of 1,280 UK residents (65++), weighted to be nationally representative of the 65+ age group.




[viii] DWP, 2020. Income-related benefits: estimates of take-up: financial year 2018 to 2019 (Table PC1). Department for Work and Pensions. [Online]. Available here. Accessed 19/01/2022 

[ix] DWP (29 October 2020). Income-related benefits: estimates of take-up 2018-19. More here.

For more information

Contact the Age UK Media team on 020 3033 1430 during office hours (Mon-Fri 08:30-17:30) or for out-of-hours media support please email 

See media contacts

Age UK

We work with our national partners, Age Scotland, Age Cymru and Age NI and our local Age UK partners in England (together the Age UK Family). We also work internationally for people in later life as a member of the DEC and with our sister charity Help Age International.

Age UK believes that everyone should have the opportunity to make the most of later life, whatever their circumstances. We provide free information, advice and support to over six million people; commercial products and services to over one million customers; and research and campaign on the issues that matter to people in later life. Our work focuses on five key areas: money matters, health and well-being, home and care, work and training and leisure and lifestyle.

Age UK is a charitable company limited by guarantee and registered in England (registered charity number 1128267 and company number 6825798). Age Concern England and Help the Aged (both registered charities), and their trading and other associated companies merged on the 1st April 2009. Together they have formed the Age UK Group ("we"). Charitable services are offered through Age UK and commercial products are offered by the Charity's trading companies, which donate their net profits to Age UK (the Charity).

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Last updated: Feb 18 2022

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