Many older people are facing a bleak Christmas, including buying fewer presents for grandchildren and spending less on food, as financial worries about the rising cost of living cause them to make cuts to their spending.

In a survey1 by national charity Independent Age, of those who celebrate Christmas almost four in ten (37%) older people said they will spend less money at Christmas this year, compared to last.

When people over 65 from the above group were asked how they would reduce their spending:

  • 42% said they would spend less on presents for children and grandchildren in their family. This increased to 77% when asked about friends and wider family
  • 55% said they would spend less on food
  • 43% said they would socialise less
  • 26% said they would use less gas and electricity

The findings come as inflation continues to rise, with the official rate recently soaring to 4.2%.


Deborah Alsina MBE, Chief Executive of Independent Age, said:

“2021 has been another incredibly tough year, and for many, after missing out on celebrations last year, the festive season has given us something to look forward to.

“But for many older people who are being hit from every angle financially, finding the money to spend at Christmas is simply not affordable.

“It is heart-breaking to think of grandparents not being able to give their grandchildren the presents they would like to, or missing out on social events which means they are more at risk of loneliness and isolation.

“However, our survey found that it’s not just the Christmas traditions that older people are scaling back on. The fact that people are spending less on food and heating is incredibly worrying, as we know both of these can impact massively on a person’s health."

Financial pressures

Previous analysis by Independent Age found that pensioner poverty has gradually increased over the last ten years, with an estimated 2.1 million pensioners now living in poverty. Of these, a shocking 1.1 million are living in severe poverty2.

When asked about what was contributing to pressure on their personal finances, people over 65 said:

  • Electricity prices – 68%
  • Gas/other fuel prices – 68%
  • Groceries – 54%
  • Fuel (petrol/diesel) – 52%

Worryingly, the survey also indicated how people are feeling about the future, with 47% of all respondents predicting that their financial situation will be even worse in 2022 than it is now.

Credit where it’s due

With the cost of living rising sharply and the State Pension triple lock being suspended for a year, the charity is calling on the government to ensure they support older people. This includes ensuring they know about, and can easily receive, the financial support available to them through entitlements like Pension Credit.

Pension Credit is a UK-wide means-tested benefit for people of State Pension age who fall below an income threshold. 

It is a lifeline to pensioners most in need of financial support. However, it has the worst uptake of all income-related benefits and has not risen above 64% for almost a decade.

Research commissioned by Independent Age for their Credit where it’s due campaign has shown that increasing Pension Credit uptake – making sure everyone entitled to it receives it – has the potential to lift 440,000 older people out of poverty, and reduce the number of people living in severe poverty by half.

Deborah Alsina continues:

“As a challenging Christmas approaches, people aged 65 and over need reassurances from the government that they will be supported to live well, and not be forced to make choices between essentials like heating their home, seeing family or buying food.

“The government must urgently come up with a plan to increase the unacceptably low level of Pension Credit uptake, including effective and targeted awareness campaigns, research into who is missing out and why, improved communication to people who are eligible, and exploring options around auto-enrolment.

“A worry-free Christmas, reassured that they will be able to heat their home, see family and buy decent food to eat. Wouldn’t that be the best Christmas present of all?”


  1. Independent Age and YouGov surveyed 2004 people over the age of 50. Unless specified, the percentages refer to all respondents. Of the respondents, 988 were aged 65 and above.

All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc.  Total sample size was 2004 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 2nd - 6th December 2021.  The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 50+).

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