Older people sacrifice essentials to buy for others this Christmas 

With an estimated 2.1 million pensioners living in poverty in the UK, and more struggling with the cost-of-living crisis, many older people are facing a bleak run up to Christmas as they cut back on essentials like food and heating to ensure they can buy presents for loved ones.  

In a national survey by older people’s charity Independent Age, respondents aged 65 and over said that in order to spend money on loved ones this year, they would reduce spending on essentials for themselves as Christmas approaches. 

Of those who said that they will reduce their spending: 

  • 59% will socialise less  
  • 47% will cut back on heating their homes  
  • 39% will spend less on food  
  • 38% will cut back on the electricity they use 

The findings come as inflation continues to rise, with the official rate recently soaring to 11.1%. 

Previous analysis by Independent Age found that pensioner poverty has gradually increased over the last 10 years, with an estimated 2.1 million pensioners now living in poverty. Of these, a shocking 1.1 million are living in severe poverty. 

Morgan Vine, Head of Policy and Influencing at Independent Age, said: “It’s extremely alarming that those in later life are being forced to cut back on essentials so they can buy presents for loved ones. Older people living in one of the world’s richest nations shouldn’t have to risk damaging their health by reducing the food they eat and using less heating during the coldest months.  

“For many, the festive season is something to look forward to, but increasing numbers of older people are being hit from every angle financially.” 

Yvonne Bailey, 77, from Oxfordshire said: “This upcoming Christmas is going to be very tough. I want to treat my loved ones, but I am struggling to cope as the price of everything is going up.   

“The only way I will be able buy presents for my grandchildren this year is if I spend less on food or heating, but my family don’t want me to do this as it could affect my health. I hope things will be easier next Christmas.”  

Cost of living fears this festive season 

It’s not just the run up to Christmas that is looking bleak for older people. The immense financial pressure faced by millions of older people this winter is forcing many of them to cut back over the festive period, including foregoing presents for loved ones altogether. 

In the same survey, over two fifths (43%) of 65+ year olds said they are planning on spending less money at Christmas this year, compared to last. 

When asked about general Christmas spending, 51% of those that plan to spend less, will reduce their spending on presents for children and grandchildren, with this number rising to 70% when asked about the other friends and family. There will be even fewer ornaments and lights to enjoy this festive season, with 38% saying they will reduce spending on decorations that require electricity.  

When asked how they will reduce their spending at Christmas, worryingly, 39% of people aged 65 and over who intend to reduce their spending said they would cut back on food, and 47% said they would spend less on heating. 

These figures paint a bleak picture of how the cost-of-living crisis will stop many from enjoying their usual Christmas.  

End the Pension Credit Scandal  

With many households struggling to cope financially this December, Independent Age is calling on the government to ensure older people are receiving the support they are entitled to, including Pension Credit.  

Pension Credit acts as an income top-up, and is a gateway to additional support, including the Warm Home Discount and Council Tax Reduction. It is also being used as a mechanism by the government to decide who gets some of the vital cost-of-living payments announced in November.  

In what the charity is calling a ‘national scandal’, up to 850,000 households are eligible for Pension Credit but don’t currently receive it.   

Morgan Vine continues: “The government was right to uprate Pension Credit by inflation in the Autumn Budget, but the hard truth is too many older people are still not receiving this vital income top-up that they are eligible for. Without it, many people in later life are facing a stressful and dire Christmas, forced to cut back on food and heating, which can be detrimental to their health.   

“It is scandalous that people are struggling when billions of pounds has been set aside for them and the money is sitting there unused. The government must commit to a Pension Credit strategy to prevent hundreds of thousands of people missing out.”  

Independent Age has launched a petition calling on the government to end the Pension Credit scandal and announce a strategy to increase uptake.   

You can sign the petition here: End the Pension Credit Scandal  

And you can read Independent Age’s detailed briefing on Pension Credit by clicking here:


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