“Not enough to live on”: new report reveals stark reality of pensioner poverty in Scotland

The stark reality of living in poverty in later life in Scotland has been revealed by a new report from Independent Age that details how older people are going without essentials including food and heating. 

The national older person’s charity is calling for an urgent focus on pensioner poverty in Scotland, as the cost of living crisis plunges even more older people into financial hardship.  

The charity’s new report, “Not enough to live on”: Pensioner Poverty in Scotland, sets out the devastating experience of poverty for those over 65.  According to the latest data, one in seven, or 150,000 older people, live in poverty in Scotland. This number has increased by 25% since 2012. 

Claire Donaghy, Head of Scotland at Independent Age said: “Older people in Scotland desperately need action to stop their financial insecurity. Today, our report lays out in black and white the upsetting truth of living below the poverty line as a pensioner. 

“No one dreams of a later life plagued by anxiety about unexpected bills and being forced to cut down on food and sit in the cold. But this is now the reality for many older people in Scotland. The cost of living crisis has taken them to breaking point.”  

Research from the charity shows that huge numbers of people over 65 in financial hardship are now cutting back on essentials. Polling from November 2022 of 531 adults over 65 in Scotland showed that in households with incomes less than £20,000 per year, 61% of older people are cutting back on food and drink. 74% are cutting back on heating, despite extreme cold temperatures felt across the country this winter. 

For the report, the charity interviewed 38 people over 65 on a low income to understand the experience of pensioner poverty in Scotland. The in-depth interviews uncovered struggles across three central themes of income, costs and housing.   


63% of interviewees agreed that managing money was a concern. Over half (53%) of older people said that their current income was reducing their quality of life. 

Polling showed that:

  • 69% of households with people aged over 65, and an income of less than £20,000 per year, are concerned they won’t be able to pay for electric in the next six month.
  • 65% are worried they won’t be able to pay for gas over the same period.
  • 55% of those over 65 on a low income are worried they won’t be able to pay for food and drink in the next 6 months. 

The interviews found there is anxiety about the rising costs of all essentials. Many spoke about the large energy bill increases they were experiencing as well as being forced to cut their spending on food. One man who has long term mental and physical health conditions has to use a food bank and is unable to afford the healthier foods that are recommended by his doctor.


Independent Age is calling for urgent action to bring down pensioner poverty and has specific recommendations for doing this in Scotland, which include that the Scottish Government:  

  • Produce a long-term written strategy for reducing pensioner poverty which includes statutory targets
  • Establish an Older People’s Commissioner for Scotland to amplify older people’s voices and champion their interests.   
  • Take action to address the immediate cost of living crisis on older people, including targeted promotion of the Scottish Welfare Fund, which although a lifeline for those in need of household goods and appliances, was mentioned by none of the interviewees implying awareness of the resource it is not reaching those it should be helping.  

Claire Donagh concluded: “If the Scottish Government is serious about making Scotland the best place in the world to grow old, the first steps it can take is committing to implementing the recommendations in our report. This must include the development of a pensioner poverty strategy, the creation of an Older People’s Commissioner and addressing the immediate cost of living crisis.  

“A warm home, being able to eat properly and a decent level of wellbeing are essential for the health and quality of life of all older people in Scotland, and should be a human right for all of us as we age.”  

The report can be downloaded here:


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