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The Big Survey 2023

The aim of The Big Survey is to capture the views and experiences of people over the age of 50, identify the challenges older people face in Scotland today, and broadly track how lives have changed over time. It explores a wide range of topics including health and wellbeing, the workplace, finances, social issues, social care, transport, community and housing, the use of technology, social security, and planning for the future.

Our first edition of this extensive national survey was undertaken in 2021, soon after the second national “lockdown”, and gave us eye-opening insight into the severe impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the lives of older people. Two years later, the effects of this virus and how it changed our society are still deeply felt by older people - particularly so with regards to health, confidence, and access to vital services.

This second edition is even bigger than the first, with more than 4,100 over 50s from all over Scotland taking part.


don't feel older people are valued for their contribution to society

Only 13% feel valued


feel financially squeezed

a further 35% feel they will be within a year


are concerned about paying for social care

Importantly, The Big Survey demonstrates the vast contribution made by older people to our country, the economy, the workplace, as carers and volunteers, across society, and highlights just how deeply they care about the lives of younger generations.

But fewer older people than ever before feel valued by society, that their voices are heard by decision-makers, and their contributions are recognised.

This survey of older people has taken place during a new national crisis which has put an extraordinary squeeze on household finances, with large numbers of older people cutting back on necessities such as household energy and food because they are unaffordable.

The physical and mental health of the nation has not improved since those Covid-19 related national lockdowns, and levels of loneliness amongst older people remain sky high.

Scotinform Ltd managed The Big Survey on behalf of Age Scotland in 2021 and has done so again in 2023. This report, prepared by Scotinform, presents the findings from survey responses received from 4,167 people living across all 32 of Scotland’s local authorities.

Of the 4,167 responses, 34% were completed on paper and 66% were completed online. These findings highlight the need for both online and paper versions of surveys to ensure everyone can share their views. 

What does The Big Survey tell us?

The findings from the 2023 Big Survey have provided us with powerful insight into the lives of older people today. The results demonstrate the immense contributions and enormous value that older people add, but sadly, many of the results make for grim reading.

The high cost of living is having a serious impact on respondents’ finances and wellbeing. We have seen a big jump in the number of older people telling us they feel financially squeezed, with 41% telling us this is the case compared to 26% in 2021. A further 35% said they may become financially squeezed in the next year.

Alarmingly, 54% of respondents who were currently in employment did not think they would have enough saved for retirement. Just 18% felt they would have saved enough. 11% of respondents told us they didn’t have any personal or workplace pension savings at all.

The number of people telling us they feel lonely all or most of the time is broadly unchanged since the 2021 survey, at 9%. This is perhaps surprising, given the active social restrictions that were still in place last time and demonstrates the need for more to be done to tackle loneliness and isolation.

The legacy of the Covid-19 pandemic continues to be felt. 30% of respondents reported going out less because they had gotten out of the habit during the pandemic. 23% of respondents felt that their mental health had gotten worse during the last two years, with Covid-19 and its legacy and loneliness and isolation given as two of the top three reasons for this.

Read the full report

With more than 100 questions covering a wide range of important topics, The Big Survey is the largest survey of people over the age of 50 in Scotland.

What would make Scotland the best place in the world to grow older?

While it may be beyond the ability of governments and others to deliver "better weather" as mentioned by 6% of respondents, there was a wide range of issues older people felt needed to change or improve in order for Scotland to become the best place in the world to grow older. 

At the top of the list was improved social care mentioned by 16% of respondents, followed by better healthcare (12%), and respect and support for older citizens (12%) in third place.

Better state pensions. Improved healthcare, shorter
waiting times, quicker access to medical help. More care workers.

What would make Scotland the best place in the world to grow older | Big Survey respondent

Recognising older people for their knowledge and experience from their younger years & giving them more of a voice in decision-making.

What would make Scotland the best place in the world to grow older | Big Survey repondent

The First Minister's Priorities

In an open-ended question, we also asked what the priorities of Scotland's First Minister should be. The replies closely matched what people felt was needed to make Scotland the best place in the world to grow older.

  • Social care (mentioned by 23% of respondents)
  • the NHS (18%)
  • pensions (14%)
  • Respect, consult and listen (13%)
  • Cost of living (9%)

Sorting out the NHS and reducing waiting lists.

Priorities for the First Minister | Big Survey respondant

Ensuring that those that live in Scotland’s rural areas have the same access to facilities as those that live in the central belt.

Priorities for the First Minister | Big Survey Respondant

Get in touch

The Big Survey has provided a voice for older people across Scotland and identified the concerns that they have about getting older. It has highlighted that older people do not feel valued nor that their views are listened to by politicians and decision makers. The results of this survey should be essential reading for politicians and policy makers, and it is clear action must be taken by them to ensure that older people are not being failed. We would be delighted to hear from you. Please get in touch with us to discuss the findings, seek media responses, or volunteer to take part in future research.

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