National Housing Survey 2023
Being able to live well, independently, and safely in a home that meets your needs for as long as possible is our aspiration for older people in Scotland.
Our 2023 national housing survey provides insight into the experience and views of older people in Scotland about their current housing situation and needs. It covers respondents’ housing intentions, home accessibility needs, their local community, the cost of living, and home energy efficiency measures.
We commissioned Scotinform Ltd to undertake this survey of 1,117 people over the age of 50. The survey sample includes responses from all 32 council areas in Scotland.
This is our third national housing survey (with previous surveys conducted in 2018 and 2020), as well as two additional national surveys in 2022, which focused on Energy and on Housing Adaptations.This has given us a five-year insight into key housing and energy issues facing older households across Scotland such as:
- Current suitability of housing
- Future housing plans and intentions
- Housing adaptations
- Fuel poverty indicators
- Energy efficiency awareness
- Impacts of cost of living
- Local community issues and local authority engagement
The survey also includes open-ended questions which gave respondents the opportunity to share their own experience and concerns.This is invaluable in gaining a better understanding of how older people in Scotland feel about their current and future housing situation.
This research was undertaken during a cost of living crisis and it is clear that respondents have concerns about energy prices. This was also evidenced through the median energy costs paid by respondents annually and which have increased significantly since 2020.
of over 50s in Scotland say they are living in fuel poverty
Pensioner fuel poverty rates have increased to 39% in 2023 compared with 19% in 2021
Awareness of energy efficiency schemes is low and consideration needs to be given to how best this information can be shared more widely so that residents aged 50+ can find out what energy efficient assistance they are entitled to or could access. Similarly, more consideration should be given to how best energy efficiency organisations can engage directly with older households.
The findings suggest that respondents show a clear preference as they get older to live in a property situated on one level, with smaller proportions of older households showing interest in wider property types ranging from houses to retirement communities. There were also perceptions that new build homes would be more energy efficient and of good quality. This evidence illustrates the need for local authorities to carefully plan for a mixture of property types to be delivered across their housing stock in the future.
of respondents with home adaptations said they had a positive impact on their lives
of respondents lived in a property which requires adaptations to be made
The findings show that installing adaptations in older residents’ households has an overwhelming impact on improving their overall quality of life, by making it safer and easier to access and move around their home. Given that the adaptations most commonly sought by older respondents are relatively minor in nature, such as grab rails and ramps, more action should be taken to ensure that older people know what adaptations services are available to them, including funding options, available Care and Repair Services and simple application processes.
Respondents perceived that fuel poverty and lack of affordable housing were the key housing issues in their local areas. Qualitative feedback also identified a lack of appropriate housing for older people, antisocial behaviour of neighbours impacting on their lives, poor public transport and pressures on local health services. Local authorities need to give greater consideration to the housing requirements of older people which impacts on their emotional and physical needs.
My local area is a good place to live as I grow older. We have all the all the necessary services and most facilities within walking distance.
Not a great place due to lack of accessibility, lack of amenities, unreliable public transport, expensive taxis.
Whilst the majority of respondents felt part of their local community this was less likely for those living in urban areas. Qualitative feedback has identified that what makes a good area for growing old is one that provides that feeling of being part of a community, good neighbours, green spaces, good public transport, access to facilities and services and feeling safe.
Loneliness continues to be a key issue for older people and this most recent survey has reported an increase in the percentage of older people who always feel lonely – (7% in 2023 in comparison with 2% in 2020). In addition 44% of respondents in 2023 sometimes feel lonely and this is an increase on the 38% reported in 2020. It is unclear whether this is a legacy from the pandemic but it highlights the need for older people to live in areas where they feel safe, comfortable and part of a community that cares.
Over half the respondents felt that housing issues in their area had got worse over the last five years. Qualitative feedback throughout the survey suggests that respondents were dissatisfied with the approach from local authorities who were not perhaps as proactive as they could be in engaging with older people and fully understanding their needs. Two thirds of respondents had not heard of the Local Housing Strategy or Local Development Plan and just 13% of respondents stated that their local authority had engaged with them directly or via a local group to ask their views on local housing issues.
The study has identified that respondents consider the most important services in a 20 Minute Neighbourhood are a bank, GP, Post Office, and a mixture of housing types. In terms of facilities, respondents considered that accessible toilets, good digital connectivity and buses and local bus stops were important. Those living in remote local areas, however, did not feel that 20 Minute Neighbourhoods were achievable in their area.
said a bank was essential in a 20 minute neighbourhood
said accessible toilets were essential in a 20 minute neighbourhood
Accessible Housing Delivery
The Scottish Government and Local Authorities should set clear demand led targets for the delivery of age-friendly accessible properties to be met both nationally and locally. These targets should be based in demand and need led evidence that takes account of the proportion of older people living in unsuitable or inaccessible housing. These targets should be delivered alongside the national affordable housebuilding programme, with the accessibility standards these homes are being built too explicitly stated and enforced.
Energy Efficiency Support
Raising Awareness and Utilisation of Energy Advice and Schemes
To drastically upscale the awareness and utilisation of energy advice and efficiency schemes in Scotland, we believe that the newly proposed National Public Energy Agency could act as a one stop shop to help streamline signposting and support referrals for older and vulnerable people to appropriate services and funding as part of its objectives to aid public understanding and awareness in accelerating transformational change in how we heat and use energy in buildings. It will be crucial that future public awareness campaigns and advertising are delivered in non-digital formats to take account of the significant number of older people without access to online services.
Targeted Energy Efficiency Support
In addition, we are calling on the Scottish Government to use the database of low income household data it took receipt of in delivering the newly created Winter Heating Payment in Scotland to directly target households on the lowest incomes across Scotland with targeted energy efficiency support.
Local Authorities must meaningfully promote the availability of adaptations support in their local area whether this is through the Scheme of Assistance of Care and Repair services to older households. The promotion should clearly advertise what adaptations can be delivered, both minor or major, coupled with what appropriate financial support is available through grant funding or loans. Information should be made available in both accessible print and online formats, and disseminated through local services and support networks such as older people’s groups, community networks or health services such as GP practices and link workers to help spread awareness.
Private Rented Sector
With the proportion of older people living in the private rented sector increasing, there is an urgent need for the Scottish Government to expand its housing evidence specifically considering the suitability of this tenure of independent living in later life. This area of housing has not been traditionally covered in existing housing research and we need to understand more about the implications of an increase in older people living in private rent, including their awareness of tenant rights and their ability to request adaptations to their home with landlord consent.
Engagement with Older Households
Our evidence clearly illustrates that a majority of older households believe their Local Authority does not take the needs of its older people into consideration when developing new places, facilities or public transport. Local Authorities therefore need to clearly set out how they intend to engage with their older community and set explicit engagement targets when considering the evidence and needs of older people in developing future local housing strategies to ensure housing needs and issues are being met for everyone in the local community.
Find out more
Read the report of the National Housing Survey 2023 or get in touch with our policy team to discuss the findings.