Elderly people in Scotland are buying less food so they can afford heating, charity finds

Food Train highlights alarming malnutrition dangers as it calls on UK Government to double Pensioner Cost of Living payment to help over-65s with burden of rising energy bills.
Food Train highlights alarming malnutrition dangers as it calls on UK Government to double Pensioner Cost of Living payment to help over-65s with burden of rising energy bills.

A QUARTER of older people surveyed by a Scottish charity say they are buying less food so they can save money to heat their homes as energy costs spiral.

Some members of Food Train are also sacrificing hot meals as they try to manage gas and electricity bills amid worries about rapidly rising prices.

The stark statistics, following research by the older people’s charity, has heightened fears that increased numbers of older Scots will become malnourished this winter.

Food Train has written to Scottish Secretary Alister Jack calling on the UK Government to double the amount paid in its previously announced Pensioner Cost of Living payment to help people cope with the crisis.

Chief Executive Michelle Carruthers said: “Our members are very worried about the winter ahead. Many have no idea how they’ll cope. Some will have to juggle between keeping warm and keeping fed.

“This puts people’s lives in danger. Without immediate action, alarming numbers of older people are going to be at greater risk of malnutrition and social isolation this winter, causing further health problems and putting further strain on our already under-pressure NHS.

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“The reports we are hearing from our members are heartbreaking, alarming and unacceptable. Their concerns are clear and are growing. Doubling the new Pensioner Cost of Living payment will go at least some way towards keeping the heating on and the cupboards stocked this winter.”

Food Train works with more than 3,000 older people each year across Scotland, helping them to eat well and live well in their own homes through a range of shopping, meal making, befriending and other support projects.

One person who took part in its cost of living survey among members said: “I might have to reduce my shopping. I don’t know how to save money on energy because I need to keep warm. When the temperature drops, I suffer pains.”

Another said: “It’s torture to choose between heat and food.”

The charity’s survey found:

27% of those questioned had started buying less food.

25% said they would struggle to pay their bills (with 37% having already dipped into savings to make ends meet).

30% have switched to cheaper food brands.

60% said they will heat their home less.

41% are cooking more often by microwave to save heating their oven.

Explaining the impact of rising costs on the dilemmas they face between heating and eating, some said they were already only heating part of their homes, were showering less often to save on power, eating sandwiches for main meals and have stopped buying new clothes.

A woman told Food Train: “I eat salads so I don’t need to use electricity. I can’t afford it and don’t have any savings to dip into.”

Another added: “It’s very difficult not to give way to depression. If I feel cold, I don’t turn the heating on - I just put more clothes on.”

Others are going out less often to save money, increasing the risk of social isolation.

Food Train’s grocery shopping service has faced sustained record-high demand across Scotland since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, making more than 60,000 shopping deliveries across Scotland in the last 12 months.