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Big Survey 2021

The results are in! More than 3,500 over 50s shared their experiences with us

The last year and a half has been a time like no other. Across Scotland, we’ve seen the devastating impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on older people’s lives and we have real concerns about the long term impact it will have on health, society and the economy.

We created The Big Survey with Scotinform to capture older people’s experiences and research how Covid-19 has impacted their lives. It also explores many other areas of life including health and wellbeing, housing, ageism, the representation of older people, their financial challenges, and looking to the future.

This new and extensive national survey ultimately takes the temperature of those over the age of 50 and provides a snapshot of what it’s like to be an older person living in Scotland today.

We are hugely grateful to the 3,562 people who shared their views and experiences with us. Notably, half of respondents filled out the survey online and half sent in paper copies which demonstrates the need to have non digital options for participation.

What does The Big Survey tell us?

The findings have provided us with very rich information and insight into the lives of older people today. Below is just a flavour of what is in the report and while it is not intended to draw out the negatives, it highlights some of the challenges we need to address.

Unsurprisingly Covid-19 has had a big impact on levels of loneliness experienced by older people, but we now know much more about the scale of it with 53% of respondents stating that the pandemic had made them feel lonelier, and 10% saying they feel lonely all or most of the time – around 220,000 over 50s.


Over 50s in Scotland say they feel lonely all or most of the time

53% said the pandemic increased their loneliness


felt financially squeezed by their bills

Household energy and council tax were the hardest to pay


don't feel that older people are valued by society

Only 21% believe that they are valued

A third of respondents felt that their mental health had deteriorated over the last few years. Younger respondents were more likely than those aged 70+ to state that their mental health had got worse – 44% of respondents in their 50s and 42% in their 60s said that this was the case.

This research highlights the impact that lockdowns have had on our longer term health and wellbeing – almost two thirds of over-50s say they have been less active over the past year and around half feeling worried about a loss of strength and mobility.

It is desperately sad to read that a third of respondents felt that older people were made to feel a burden to society and that life is getting worse for older people in Scotland. We want Scotland to be the best place in the world to grow older so it’s clear we have some way to go, with only 9% of respondents reporting that they felt very positive about the future. One in five believed that older people were valued for their contribution to society, but more than half disagreed.

Energy bills and council tax were among the biggest financial concerns for respondents, with 26% feeling financially squeezed. The pandemic has had an impact on older people’s finances, with 67% of respondents reporting that their energy bills had increased as a result of staying at home more since March 2020 - 38% of these stating they had struggled to pay increased bills and 4% now in arrears.

Alarmingly 87% of respondents said that they or someone they know has been the target of a scam, most likely by telephone. Sadly 32% of people didn’t see the point of reporting the scam, with only 19% informing the police.

Describing "older people"

We featured a series of words and phrases commonly used to describe older people. Respondents were asked which of these they preferred.

Elders and elderly people were the least popular (selected by 7% of respondents). The preferred options were older adults (21%) and older people (20%) - as they are very similar it makes sense to group them together at (41%) - and senior citizens (36%).

Responses varied dependent on age – respondents in their 50s preferred people aged over 55 (40%), older adults (37%) and older people (19%).

We will use these results to shape the services Age Scotland offers older people, their families and carers, and to influence decision makers to make changes so that everyone in Scotland can love later life.

Brian Sloan | Chief Executive, Age Scotland

Want to find out more?

Contact Age Scotland's Policy and Communications team on 0333 323 2400 or email


Last updated: Aug 16 2023

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