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Taking the Temperature

Age Scotland's nationwide survey of over 50s living in Scotland sought to understand more about their energy usage, experience of paying these bills, relationships with energy suppliers, awareness of energy efficiency support and issues surrounding energy safety, such as the recent requirement to install interlinked fire and smoke alarms.

We are grateful for the partnership and funding from SGN to conduct this survey and to the researchers at Scotinform who undertook the work.

The survey captured the views of over 1,000 older people from all areas of Scotland and offers valuable insight and understanding to the very real challenges they are facing today and what the future winter months ahead have in store.

I stopped using my heating in May 2022. I only use one lamp in the evening, have stopped making bread and scones and wear a fleece dressing gown with a blanket when I sit in the evening. When I boil a kettle I make a flask of coffee as well as a cup of coffee. I am not looking forward to the winter and having to be more frugal.

Survey Participant

The majority of respondents have concerns about rising fuel prices alongside an increase in food and fuel costs. For those living in rural locations vehicle fuel is essential to ensuring they are not isolated. Clearly worries about rising prices are impacting on older people’s mental health, which was also affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Cutting back on food, heating, essentials and treats means life for many older people is significantly less comfortable than it should be. Their fixed income and pension are not increasing in line with fuel bills. 

The study has highlighted there is a lack of awareness of energy schemes and advice services and a need to raise awareness amongst older people so that they can get the help and advice they need.

4 in 10

older people self-identified as living in fuel poverty in July 2022


of older people were always concerned about paying their fuel bills

I have delayed my full retirement as I cannot afford my housing costs with the rise in the cost of living. I am considering having to sell my home to downsize and reduce costs. I only heat one room now.

Survey participant

Only 46%

of respondents felt they could heat their home to a comfortable level


of older people always or sometimes struggle to pay their energy bill

I can no longer afford to catch a bus anywhere or even get half decent food. I am already using foodbanks and get free meals twice a week from Food for Scotland.

Survey Participant

Older people’s experience of paying fuel bills

Older people on low and fixed incomes simply will not be able to keep pace with rising energy bills (even at their new fixed price under the Energy Price Guarantee) as surging inflation and other increased costs far outstrip the growth of their incomes. We have tracked older people’s experiences of paying for fuel bills and their ability to heat their home to a comfortable level to live in over the last four years, the results, whilst shocking, are sadly unsurprising.

This is having an obvious and immediate impact on older people’s health and wellbeing, well before Scotland reaches its coldest parts of the year.

Household budgets were already at breaking point following the last OFGEM Price Cap increase. Now, the Energy Price Guarantee from 1 October which "caps" the average household energy bills at £2,500 per year and at a level twice as high as the year before, will cause thousands of older households to make difficult decisions about their essential spending.

This survey showed that 55% of older people had a gross income of less than £20,000 and 18% had an income of less than £10,000 per year. These people will experience the worst impacts of extreme fuel poverty with many spending more than 25% of their incomes just trying to heat their homes to a basic level.

It was a shock to see my monthly bill go up by 91%. I have dipped into reserve money to pay for this.

Survey Participant

On a fixed income all the horrible rising prices and inflation, and declining mental ability to search out better deals, makes us worry about what the future holds for us.

Survey Participant

Relationships with energy suppliers

The last two years have seen extreme volatility in energy supplier viability, as many have gone out of business due to the spiralling energy crisis, leaving vulnerable customers in uncertain positions in regards to their energy supply. In this light, it is crucial that older people are receiving the best possible customer care from their supplier and can turn to them to receive quick, accurate and accessible information about their billing, energy usage and any additional support that may be available to them.

Our survey found that:
  • Less than half of respondents (45%) thought it was either very straightforward or straightforward to make contact with their energy supplier and only 46% of respondents were satisfied with the length of time it took to get in touch with their energy supplier.
  • Other than the Warm Home Discount, when asked about a range of different support funds supplied by energy firms for customers, the usage rate was less than 1% for all of those listed. (Scottish Power Hardship Fund, British Gas Energy Trust, Ovo Energy Fund, E.ON Energy Fund, E.ON Next Energy Fund and EDF Energy Customer Support Fund).

It's difficult to speak to someone on the telephone as everything automated and confusing to get through to actually speak to someone. The online Chat asks too many offline questions that you end up back at square one when all you actually want to do is speak to someone.

Survey Participant

Awareness of energy efficiency support

Compounding the issue of unaffordable rising energy prices is the lack of awareness amongst Scotland’s older population of existing support available on energy efficiency maximisation and to help tackle some of the root causes of fuel poverty. Age Scotland research has found consistently low levels of awareness amongst older households for energy efficiency support:

  • In 2022, only 38% of older people had heard of Home Energy Scotland, 24% of the Warmer Homes Scotland Scheme and 18% of the Local Authority Area Based Schemes.
  • Actual usage of the schemes was lower, with a take up rate of 12% (Home Energy Scotland), 5% (Warmer Homes Scotland) and 3% (Area Based Schemes).
  • In our 2020 National Housing Survey, 55% of older people hadn’t heard of any of the main energy efficiency schemes in Scotland.
  • Only 11% of respondents were aware what the Energy Performance Certificate of their home was, the main indicator of understanding how efficient your home is to run.

Poor energy efficiency is one of the main drivers of fuel poverty - it is essential that much more is done to highlight the support out there for vulnerable, low and fixed income households to improve their home’s energy efficiency.

Home safety measures

Alongside being able to heat your home to a comfortable level, it is crucial that people are safe and that essential household protections are in place such as alarms. Awareness of the additional protection available from being signed up to a Priority Service Register is also important.

One of the biggest challenges older people have faced in this regard over the last year is the requirement as of February 2022 to install interlinked fire and smoke alarms in their homes. Age Scotland had consistently raised concerns over the viability of delivering on this target due to the expense and availability of the products required, leading to the delay of implementation from February 2021.

Whilst Age Scotland has welcomed the additional support and funding from the Scottish Government provided through Care and Repair Scotland to help with installation there still remains a large proportion of older households without these alarms.


of respondents had not yet been able to install interlinked fire and smoke alarms

Only 79%

of respondents had a working carbon monoxide alarm installed in their home

  • 25% of respondents had not yet been able to install interlinked fire and smoke alarms following the February 2022 deadline. With 14% saying they would not be able to install them before the end of 2022; the most common reasons cited for not installing are cost, availability of alarms and being unaware of what support they may be eligible to receive.
  • Only 79% of respondents had a working carbon monoxide alarm installed in their home.
  • 76% of respondents stated they were eligible for the Priority Services Register, yet only 34% were, and a further 21% did not know if they would eligible.

Taking the Temperature

Read the findings of our national energy survey of the over 50s in Scotland. In partnership with SGN.

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