The Impact on Care-Based Decisions for the Over 75s.
The cost-of-living crisis is hitting the over 75s hard. 7 in 10 over 75s report having been negatively impacted by the crisis in some way. 20% of over 75s sometimes need to choose between essential purchases such as heating, electricity and food.
Director, SureSafe Alarms
It comes as no surprise that people aged over 75 want to remain living in their own homes for as long as possible. 96% of over 75s say that they would prefer to remain living independently as opposed to moving into a care home or to living with family members.
The cost-of-living crisis is hitting the over 75s hard. 7 in 10 over 75s report having been negatively impacted by the crisis in some way. 20% of over 75s sometimes need to choose between essential purchases such as heating, electricity and eating.
The cost-of-living crisis is also affecting care-based decisions. The current care options are simply not affordable for the majority of over 75s. 74% find home care unaffordable and a staggering 90% find care homes and nursing homes to be unaffordable options.
Instead of making care-based decisions solely on the best interests of the individual, 40% acknowledge that the cost-of-living crisis is at least somewhat impacting their choices. This can include deciding not to get much needed support at home in the form of home care, potentially limiting the ability to continue living independently. More needs to be done to address this, and other ‘lower cost’ alternatives such as the use of technology to support independent living need to be made more readily available.
More than half of over 75s believe that the government needs to do more to help them through the cost-of living crisis. Whether that is in the form of direct payments to ease day-to-day spending pressures or protecting the ‘triple-lock’ on pension increases, the majority of the public wants to see more done to help those affected by the cost-of-living crisis.
One option the government could consider is the introduction of policies that support the goal to remain living independently. This could include raising awareness of assistive technology that can be used as part of an overall care package to maintain independent living. This is not the first time that this type of request has been made. In 2020, The Association of Directors of Adults Social Services (ADASS) called for a ‘Home First’ strategy in reforming social care, which included a section on the value of technology.
As we grow older, our care needs develop over time. These needs will vary according to the individual, and a personalised care plan that uses an outcomes led approach is essential. There is no ‘one size fits all approach’ to social care. In the early stages, this typically means more help around the home is required. This can include help with cleaning, cooking, bathing, and a host of other daily tasks. In the intermediate stages it can mean live-in carers who are around most of the time to give a helping hand. It can also include the use of technology in the home to assist with everyday living, and to provide safety by way of calling for help in the event of an emergency.
Alternatively, for those with more advanced needs when more round the clock help is needed, moving into an assisted living facility (also known as ‘extra-care housing’) or a care home is required. For most people, this is the final stage in the care continuum – when living independently is no
longer an option. Only 1% of people would prefer to live in a care home than live independently. Care and nursing homes are key part of the care landscape, they are the right option for some people’s circumstances and needs. However, the question is for how many people is it truly the right decision at the right time? Have all options been explored? Were any alternative options affordable? Remaining independent aligns with the majority of people’s preference and is likely to result in a better quality of life. Could technology have played a bigger part in supporting an individual to live at home a little longer?
Technology can help. Most people would use it, but only a fraction currently are.
With all the above noted about the issues people face – people having less spare money, a desire to stay living at home and the alternatives being unaffordable, one potential part of the solution is being seriously underutilised.
Personal alarms are affordable. 8 out of 10 people would use one, but only 1 in 20 currently are. As part of a broader care package, personal alarms can play an important role in helping people remain living independently – safer and for longer. Technology cannot replace physical care but it can be used to reduce the need for some human care, making home care more affordable and delaying the need for moving into a care home. Tech/alarms can also play a very important part in preventing the common downward cycle a lot of people face of having a fall, going to hospital, moving to rehab before finally landing in a care home. Better use of tech/alarms "upstream", by which we mean having them in place earlier, can help to prevent things happening and stop people entering the downward cycle.
This type of assistive technology can help achieve both goals: to help people remain in their own homes and help make home care more affordable for more people. It is important to note that care must be taken to balance the use of technology to not increase the risk of isolation – to not ‘overuse’ tech.
There is also evidence that using a personal alarm can have a positive impact on both physical and mental health, and quality of life. Personal alarms bring peace of mind to wearers and promote increased physical activity around the home. Remaining active is important as we age, helping to reduce the risk of certain medical conditions, as well as improving mobility and reducing the risk of a fall. In addition to being an affordable way to support independent living, alarms can also bring positive outcomes in terms of the wearer’s overall health and wellbeing.
Finally, alarms can also play an important role in the lives of family members who act as carers. Personal alarms can give carers the confidence to leave their loved one at home alone as they know that they can get help at the touch of a button. With many carers feeling that they need to leave their jobs to become full-time carers, this technology could give more carers the ability to stay in the workplace longer. They can also give carers to freedom to live their own lives a little more, allowing them to have a social life without the need to worry or feel guilty.
Why we commissioned this white paper
The cost-of-living crisis needs little by way of an introduction. It has been much publicised and most people will be acutely aware of the financial challenges being faced on a day-to-day basis as a result of it. There is a high level of awareness of the impact of the increase on the cost of fuel, petrol, food and other essential items. The impact of these cost increases on the over 75s has also been well
reported on, with this demographic being particularly at risk of inflationary pressures as a result of living on fixed incomes.
What has not been thoroughly explored is how these financial pressures are impacting decisions that are unique to this demographic, specifically age-related care expenses. If over 75s are feeling the pinch when it comes to groceries and heating, how are they feeling when it comes to the cost of home care, nursing care and their ability to financially care for themselves as they get older? This comes in the broader context of a social care landscape that has been heavily criticised in the pre-cost-of-living crisis era as not being fit for purpose, and already not affordable for the majority of people.
As a leading provider of personal alarms in the UK, SureSafe is committed to the wellbeing of older adults, the disabled and those living with long-term medical conditions. Affordability has always been a foundation of the SureSafe philosophy. We’re passionate about making cutting-edge safety technology accessible to everyone, regardless of their financial situation. Everyone should have the right to live with dignity, and with peace of mind that they can feel safe at home.
SureSafe was founded in 2012, when after researching the market for assistive technology for ageing grandparents, it became clear that what was on offer was either too expensive for the majority of everyday people or of insufficient quality to give family members peace of mind that loved ones would be able to get help when needed. SureSafe’s vision was to supply the best quality technology to keep people living safely and independently at a price that would be affordable for all. Eleven years later, SureSafe has sold over 150,000 alarms worldwide and stayed true to the goal of having the best quality products with the newest technology, while still being easy to use and affordable for all.
We asked 1,000 people aged 75 and over from all over the UK 10 questions relating to the cost-of-living crisis. Our survey questions explored a wide range of topics that affect older adults, including the preference to remain living in their own homes and attitudes towards using technology to achieve this goal. We also targeted topics like the affordability of care homes and home care, with the former being the primary alternative to remaining in your own home. We wanted to gauge public opinion of the government’s response to the cost-of-living crisis and the impact the cost-of-living crisis has had on daily lives, as well as on their care-based decisions, both now and for the future. The goal was to understand what people want in terms of their living arrangements as they grow older, what they can afford in terms of care options, and how the cost-of-living crisis has impacted their care-based decisions.
Building out from these questions, we hoped to get a better picture of where assistive technology, and personal alarms in particular, fit within the crisis as it relates to care-based decisions. Where do alarms fit within how people want to access care as they get older? Is this in line with what is currently being made available to them? And more importantly, can alarms and assistive technology be used to make the situation better for people?
Summarising the SureSafe survey
The cost-of-living crisis affects people in different ways and older adults are one demographic that have been hit particularly hard. From everyday expenses like groceries and petrol, to specialised costs like home care and care homes, results from the SureSafe survey confirm over 75s are finding it increasingly difficult to keep up with rising costs.
The survey drew responses from almost 1,000 people aged 75+ and the results are clear – older adults are disproportionately impacted due to typically being on fixed incomes that are not growing in line with inflation. Their income remains relatively stable while their outgoings continue to grow.
Before looking at what the survey did reveal, it’s important to consider some potentially hidden factors that might impact the results of the survey. Some people in the target age group are beneficiaries of 40+ years of home ownership, or are cushioned by long-established pensions that provide them a good income. There is the potential that a reasonable percentage of the target demographic is therefore shielded from the cost-of-living-crisis to some extent.
Additionally, this demographic are part of the ‘war generation’ and well-versed in adopting a “make-do” attitude. Similarly, many over 75s are reluctant to complain or “make a fuss” even when it’s in their best interests to do so. These kinds of attitudes could be understating the extent of the crisis and preventing some over 75s from speaking up or asking for help.
Even without speculation, it’s clear that to remain safe, healthy and independent, changes need to be made. These changes include a proactive approach to personal health and safety, as well as government support and intervention when it comes to costs like home care, care homes and access to technologies that can help keep people living independently for longer.
A word of thanks…
Before exploring the survey results it is important to acknowledge the invaluable input from Annabel James and her team at Age Space. Age Space is a leading one-stop online resource and guide for anyone with concerns about, or caring for an ageing parent or relative, neighbour or friend. Age Space’s depth of knowledge, experience and contributions played a very important role in creating this white paper.
Annabel, CEO, on Age Space’s involvement in the white paper states “We welcome this white paper from SureSafe, highlighting the impact of the cost-of-living crisis on care decisions made by older people. Critically it underlines the need for a massive shift in the understanding of the role technology can play in supporting our ageing population to stay in their own homes living independently.”
Key findings from the survey
- A preference to continue living independently
95% of people would prefer to stay living in their own homes, and 8 out of 10 people would use technology to help them remain living independently. However, less than 4% of respondents actually have a personal alarm to help maintain independence.
- Concerns over the affordability of home care support and care homes
3 in 4 people over 75 think home care support is unaffordable, while only 1 in 10 believe that care home/nursing home care to be affordable.
- The broad reach of the cost-of-living crisis
7 in 10 respondents have been negatively impacted in some way by the cost-of-living crisis, with 1 in 10 people saying they have been very negatively impacted.
- Concerns over the affordability of everyday essentials
1 in 5 over 75s are worried or very worried about being able to pay for everyday essentials like food, gas and electricity.
- Over 75s being forced to choose between essential expenses
1 in 5 people sometimes need to choose between eating, heating and electricity, with 1 in 20 people regularly needing to do so. Only slightly more than half of people surveyed said they had never had to make such a decision.
- A general consensus the Government needs to do more
More than half think the Government are not doing enough to help elderly people during the crisis. Only 17% of respondents believe the Government is doing enough, with the remainder of those polled (27%) being unsure.
- Cost-of-living crisis is impacting care-based decisions
Only 3 in 10 elderly people are not worried to some extent about the impact of the crisis on their ability to look after themselves as they get older. 2 out of 5 people say that the crisis is impacting care-based decisions they make. Decisions are being made due to financial circumstances rather than the best interests of the individual.
- Technology can help. Most people would use it, but only a fraction currently are
With all of the above noted about the issues people face – people having less spare money, a desire to stay living at home and the alternatives being unaffordable – one part of the solution is being seriously underutilised. Personal alarms are affordable, 8 out of 10 people would use one, but only 1 in 20 currently is.
A closer look at questions asked in the SureSafe survey
To get a better understanding of how the cost-of-living crisis is impacting care-based decisions, we asked 1,000 people aged 75+ to complete a survey. We carefully curated questions designed to unpack exactly how the cost-of-living crisis is affecting over 75s.
Would you prefer to stay living in your own home, rather than moving into a care home or moving in with relatives?
The response to this question was overwhelming. Of the 1,000 respondents surveyed, 96% stated they would prefer to continue living in their own homes. This comes as no surprise, given the physical, financial and mental health benefits of living independently. Originally a term coined in the United States, experts call this preference ‘ageing in place’ and maintain that with the right support, independent living can continue to be a safe and cost-effective option for over 75s. Ageing in place also likely results in a better quality of life for the 96% who want to remain in their own homes, as they are in control of where they choose to grow older.
- A staggering 96% of respondents would prefer to stay living in their own home
- 2% would prefer to move in with relatives
- 1% would prefer to move to a care home
- 1% already live with relatives or in a care home
The benefits of ageing in place:
Continue to enjoy the comforts of home
One of the most profound benefits of ageing in place is the possibility to continue to enjoy the comforts of home. For many people aged 75+, they have been living in the same home for decades. Transitioning to a care home can be disruptive, stressful and traumatic. This is particularly true for seniors who have lost a life partner and have sentimental ties to their home. Moving into a care home can also create feelings of helplessness and lead to negative thinking and depression as people start to think that they are no longer capable of looking after themselves.
Ageing in place allows seniors to continue to enjoy small comforts like sitting in the same living room they have enjoyed watching TV in for years, being surrounded by memories of children growing up and playing in the garden that they look out on from the kitchen window, sleeping in their own bed and chatting to the same neighbour or postie that has been in their life for decades. These really do make a difference when it comes to maintaining a sense of personal comfort, wellbeing and independence.
Maintaining independence and dignity
Nursing homes and care homes offer invaluable support to many over 75s – they are a key part of the care landscape and are the best place for some people’s needs. However, for those with the capacity to age in place, these types of living arrangements can feel restrictive. Things like set mealtimes, organised activities and scheduled checkups from medical professionals can leave independent seniors feeling frustrated and trapped.
Ageing in place allows over 75s to maintain an all-important sense of freedom. Seniors can continue to live independently and carry out their daily routines and activities. Whether it’s choosing their own meals, driving themselves to the golf course or local club, or gift shopping for the grandchildren, ageing in place helps maintain a feeling of autonomy.
Improved quality of life
Ageing at home can be a meaningful way to improve quality of life for over 75s. Prematurely moving seniors to care homes when they’re capable of living independently can be traumatic. With the right approach to in-home support, ageing in place can be a good way to improve quality of life and postpone the feeling of institutionalisation that so many over 75s dread.
A cost-effective option
The costs of care homes and nursing homes have always been high. The cost-of-living crisis has escalated the problem and put these options even further out of reach for many people. While care homes and nursing homes are the right choice for some over 75s, ageing in place is a far more cost-effective option for others. The cost of using technology to help maintain safer independent living, supplemented with some home care when required, is far more affordable for most.
The average cost of in-home carers, where people come into your home to assist you with day-to-day tasks, is £315 per week (based on 3 hours help per day). How affordable is this for you?
From personal care tasks like bathing and grooming, to everyday home management chores like cleaning and shopping, in-home carers offer invaluable support for older people.
- More than 74% say £315 per week is not affordable
- Only 1 in 4 respondents see £315 per week as affordable
Why is this so important?
The reason most people need to move into a nursing or care home is because they are no longer able to adequately take care of themselves at home. For some, the level of round-the-clock care needed means that moving into a care home is the only and best option. However, for others whose support needs are not as advanced, help with simple tasks around the home that they are no longer able to do for themselves can be the difference between being able to choose to remain independent or not.
Support through ‘meals on wheels’ food delivery, help in the garden, cleaning and other day-to-day tasks means that tens of thousands of people can continue to live in their own homes, safer and for longer. For this to be a viable option for the majority, it also needs to be affordable. If it is not affordable then people might feel forced to move into a care home when there could have been a way to remain independent.
Prevention is better than cure
Annabel James, CEO of Age Space , argues that more focus needs to be given to preventing people’s need for care before it happens. “With the majority of over 75s concerned how they might make affordable care decisions as a result of the cost-of-living crisis, we need to help people make good decisions to help themselves to reduce care they might need: better prevention of falls and associated hospital admissions; greater awareness of more general health and well-being measures, and future proofing the home better to make independent living safer.”
The average cost of living in a care home is £800 per week, £1,078 per week for a nursing home. How affordable is this for you?
In-home care isn’t the only expense faced by over 75s. The cost of living in residential care homes and nursing homes are even higher. Like in-home care, costs are driven up by rising wages. Nurses, care providers and medical professionals working at these facilities undoubtedly deserve better pay. Though unfortunately, it’s a double-edged sword as this pushes up costs for seniors and puts care homes and nursing homes financially out of reach for many.
- 9 out of 10 respondents see £800 per week for care homes and £1,078 for nursing homes as not being affordable
- Just 10% of respondents see this as affordable
Personal alarms can offer an affordable way to help you stay living in your own home safer, and for longer. How likely would you be to use a personal alarm at home if it helped you to stay living in your own home, and stopped you moving into a care home?
Technology can play an important supportive role in the care continuum when deployed effectively and used in conjunction with human based care when required. Technology cannot replace human care, however it can support and supplement it to reduce the number of care hours required. Less hours means less cost, making it more affordable for more people.
Care packages need to be outcome oriented, focusing on the needs of the individual to help them in whatever stage of care continuum they are in. Each individuals care needs are different, and these needs can develop at a different pace over time. There is no one size fits all approach to care solutions. There is a wide array of tech available to support people’s care needs. This includes virtual wards (also known as ‘hospitals at home’), telehealth, telemedicine, home activity monitoring, as well as personal alarms and telecare devices that can allow the user to call for help in the event of an emergency. Age Space’s Annabel James welcomes the adoption of tech as a way to help people during various stages of the care life-cycle “the shift to digital for the NHS and initiatives such as Home from Hospital and Virtual Wards are the ideal opportunities for technology to become more widely embraced in the home”.
As explored above, a massive 96% of respondents stated they would prefer to continue living in their own homes. This shows the potential value of solutions designed to make ageing in place as easy, comfortable and safe as possible. Personal alarms do just this by offering seniors on-demand support and assistance – not to mention a renewed sense of confidence. For loved ones, personal alarms offer peace of mind that in an emergency, help is close at hand.
Personal alarms typically cost less than £300 per year to purchase and maintain. Affordability makes them an appealing option for the majority of over 75s surveyed. Sometimes used as the first introduction of care support at home, when an individual is at risk of a fall or has a medical condition that means they might need to get help quickly but is otherwise fully capable of managing the requirements of day-to-day living, alarms are subtle and non-invasive. Seniors can maintain a sense of independence and dignity, without putting their health and safety at risk.
Alarms can also play a supportive role alongside home care services, being used to reduce the number of hours carers are required to physically be with an individual. Home care can be limited to the hours needed to complete tasks such as shopping, eating and bathing, with alarms stepping in outside of this to act as a mechanism to summon assistance on the event of an emergency. More modern alarms, like the SureSafe Guardian, can include an outbound check-in function that asks the alarm user at various intervals if they are OK. This proactive measure can alert carers to support needs before it becomes a crisis, meaning alarms can be preventative as well as responsive.
- More than 82% of respondents are very likely or likely to use a personal alarm
- Only 5% of respondents already use a personal alarm
- Just over 13% of respondents are very unlikely or unlikely to use a personal alarm
“One of the most important findings from this question is the gap between actual alarm use and willingness to embrace wearable safety technology. While more than 82% of respondents said they are very likely or likely to use a personal alarm, just 5% currently use a personal alarm,” says Daniel Westhead, Director at SureSafe.
“This takes us back to the first question which confirmed 96% of respondents would prefer to stay living in their own home. Personal alarms can help achieve this goal as part of a broader social care package which is why we aim to make wearable safety technology as affordable and user-friendly as possible.”
The value of personal alarms: Automatic fall detection for over 75s
The NHS cites falls as one of the biggest risks faced by seniors. People of all ages are susceptible to falls, but the consequences are more severe for older people and those with long-term health conditions. Around one in three people aged 65+ and more than 50% of people aged 80+ will have at least one fall each year according to the NHS.
For high-risk groups like over 75s, personal alarms can be invaluable. Personal alarms with automatic fall detection means seniors can get help quickly without needing to do anything, even if a serious injury has occurred. In fact, personal alarms are recommended by the NHS as a smart investment for high-risk demographics. The government-run website states technology like personal alarms are a fast and effective way to call for help in an emergency, either at home or outside.
Studies into the effectiveness of personal alarms have also found tangible benefits to both physical and mental health. According to the 2017 study Personal emergency alarms: do health outcomes differ for purchasers and non-purchasers?, “Purchasers of alarms, compared to non-purchasers, benefitted in terms of feeling more safe and secure and being more active around their home.”
Remaining active is very important to the health and wellbeing of over 75s. One study from 2016 states – “The evidence shows that regular physical activity is safe for healthy and for frail older people and the risks of developing major cardiovascular and metabolic diseases, obesity, falls, cognitive impairments, osteoporosis and muscular weakness are decreased by regularly completing activities ranging from low intensity walking through to more vigorous sports and resistance exercises.”
Have you been negatively impacted by the cost-of-living crisis?
Survey results indicate over 75s are experiencing a significant amount of financial vulnerability in the face of the cost-of-living crisis.
- 70% have been negatively impacted in some way
- 9% of respondents have been very negatively impacted
- Only 30% have not been negatively impacted
Over 75s confirmed as a financially vulnerable group
The latest data sourced from the Opinions and Lifestyle survey issued by the ONS explored the impact of the cost-of-living crisis on adults across the UK. Renters were identified as an at-risk group, with 55% admitting they would be unable to absorb an unplanned but essential expense of £850. Low-income earners were also identified as financially vulnerable, with 56% of respondents earning between £10,000 and £15,000 per year confirming they will be unable to save over the next 12 months. Around 54% of parents living with dependent children also predict they will be unable to save over the next 12 months due to the cost-of-living crisis.
While over 75s face a different set of issues to demographics like renters, low-income earners and parents with dependent children, they remain a financially vulnerable group. More than 70% of respondents in our survey confirmed they have been negatively impacted by the cost-of-living crisis to some extent. If you flip that around, only 3 in 10 over 75s have not been negatively affected which is a very small percentage of the population to not be suffering financially due to factors outside of their control.
How worried are you about being able to pay for your normal everyday living costs (food, gas, electricity, etc.) due to the current cost-of-living crisis*?
While it’s not a concern for all elderly people, more than 50% of respondents expressed worry over their ability to pay for normal everyday living costs. This includes expenses like food, petrol, electricity, and heating.
- 1 in 5 respondents say they are ‘worried’ or ‘very worried’ about being able to pay for normal everyday living costs
- 35% confirm they are ‘somewhat worried’ about covering everyday living costs
- Less than 1 in 2 respondents are not worried about being able to pay for normal everyday expenses
More than 50% of over 75s concerned about normal everyday living costs
Responses to this question are bittersweet. While it’s great to hear 45% of over 75s aren’t worried about being able to pay for normal everyday expenses, the remaining 55% are struggling, at least some of the time. Expenses like food, petrol, heating and electricity aren’t luxuries. They’re basic human necessities. To hear 55% of respondents express concern over meeting these expenses is alarming and saddening.
Rising cost of living a major concern for elderly
A campaigner from leading charity Age UK echoes these findings, saying “the rising cost of living is a major concern for older people.” Cutting back on food doesn’t just present health issues. It can also have a negative impact on mental health and leave seniors feeling helpless and ashamed. Struggling to pay energy and heating bills has a similar effect and can impact both physical and mental health.
Some seniors are eliminating expenses associated with social activities. This is a serious concern when it comes to mental health as loneliness and isolation are major issues faced by elderly people. For some over 75s, the cost-of-living crisis has meant cutting back on essential expenses like home care costs, or cancelling their personal alarm services. Once again, this can lead to serious risks to their health and safety.
Government-endorsed schemes like the Energy Bill Support Scheme, Energy Price Guarantee and one-off Cost of Living Payments have helped ease the burden. However, for 55% of Brits aged 75 and over, being able to pay for everyday living costs like food, electricity and petrol remains a concern.
Is the cost-of-living crisis making you choose between essential buying decisions such as food, heating and using electricity*?
Not all Brits aged 75 and over are being forced to choose between essentials like food, electricity, and heating. But for almost 5% of respondents surveyed, these are tough decisions that must be made regularly. 45% of those surveyed say that they have to make these decisions at least some of the time – that’s nearly 1 in 2 people sometimes choosing between eating and heating. This is heartbreaking.
- Almost 5% of respondents confirm they regularly need to choose between eating, heating and using electricity
- More than 15% say they sometimes need to choose between these costs
- 26% occasionally need to choose between eating, heating and using electricity
- 53% never need to choose between eating, heating and using electricity
A closer look at how the cost-of-living crisis affects everyday spending in the UK
From food to energy bills, the cost of everyday essentials is rapidly climbing. A drastic spike in the wholesale price of gas has pushed up energy costs across the UK. In 2022, electricity and gas both played a big role in increasing CPIH inflation – that’s the consumer prices index including housing costs. Over the past year, average energy bills almost doubled, soaring from £1,271 in 2022 to £2,500 in 2023.
Fuel poverty is a very real concern in the UK, with Age UK estimating that 2.8 million older households struggled with heating expenses during winter 2022. This is a drastic increase since the 1.1 million reported in 2021.
But fuel poverty isn’t just about comfort. Alarming data from fuel poverty charity National Energy Action (NEA) suggests underheated homes caused more than 4,000 deaths in England in Wales in 2022. This equates to around 45 deaths per day during the coldest winter months. While this number is down from 2021, NEA chief executive Adam Scorer says, “more needs to be done to protect vulnerable Brits and keep all citizens safe, warm and healthy throughout the winter.”
“Today’s figures show a significant drop in premature winter deaths, partly because of a higher number of deaths outside winter months, but it’s still 45 people per day in the winter months. The truth is that we should not accept any death directly caused by a cold, unsafe home” says Scorer. “Next year, these statistics will expose the full impact of today’s energy crisis. The toxic combination of extraordinary heating costs, stagnant or falling incomes, and our notoriously poor, unhealthy housing stock will take a heavier toll with lives blighted by debt, ill health, and worse.”
Bills aren’t the only thing piling up. Price increases have appeared across the board, with essential items like pasta and milk increasing by 26% since last year, according to the Office for National Statistics.
20% of over 75s forced to choose between essential costs “sometimes” or “regularly”
Once again, responses to this question are both positive and alarming. 53% of over 75s surveyed confirm they don’t need to choose between expenses like eating, heating and using electricity. A further 26% say they ‘rarely’ need to choose between these costs. But ‘rarely’ is not never, and having to choose once is one time too many. However, the situation is very different for the 15% of respondents who say they sometimes need to choose between these costs, and the 5% who are forced to make these decisions regularly.
As mentioned earlier, these types of expenses are basic human necessities, not luxuries. Choosing between food, electricity and heating shouldn’t be a decision faced by any member of society, let alone 1 out of every 5 people over 75 years of age.
Do you believe that the Government is doing enough to support the elderly during the cost-of-living crisis?
This was the first and only “yes or no” question of our survey and the results are interesting. Initiatives like the Energy Price Guarantee, which capped the cost of electricity and gas in the face of soaring rates, helped instil trust in the Government. However, the majority of over 75s still believe policymakers must do more to support vulnerable groups like the elderly in the cost-of-living crisis.
- More than 56% of over 75s feel the government should do more to support the elderly during the cost-of-living crisis – they feel that the Government is not doing enough
- 17% of over 75s believe the Government is doing enough to support the elderly during the cost-of-living crisis
- Around a quarter of respondents were unsure
Experts call on government to address fuel poverty
Adam Scorer, chief executive at NEA says “the Government must act now to address issues like fuel poverty and protect vulnerable households.”
“We must do all we can now to prevent a public health emergency and further needless deaths. Fuel poverty needs long term solutions, but this winter we need the UK Government to give more support and stop millions falling through the cracks with the most awful consequences.”
Protecting the “triple lock”
Protecting an idea called the “triple lock” is a major concern for age-related campaign groups. The term describes the goal of raising the State Pension according to earnings, inflation or a flat rate of 2.5%, depending on which is higher. The goal is to ensure people who rely on the State Pension can afford to live comfortably.
Advocacy groups like Age UK campaign heavily for the triple lock and have had some terrific victories over the past few years. This includes prompting the Chancellor of the Exchequer to reinstate the triple lock, as well as introduce much-needed benefits like Cost of Living payments, an extension on the Energy Price Guarantee and the introduction of a dedicated Energy Efficiency Taskforce.
Another fantastic initiative is the Warm Home Prescription, which has reimagined heating as a medical treatment. Certain NHS regions have teamed up with Energy Systems Catapult to identify financially vulnerable patients and offer them energy credit to heat their homes. Cold homes cost the NHS an estimated £1 billion a year in England. The Warm Home Prescription is designed to not only keep vulnerable members of society safe and warm but ease the burden on the NHS over time.
Not the first call on the Government to do more for social care
When it comes to the adequacy of social care for the elderly, unfortunately this is not the first time the Government has been asked to do more. In 2020, ADASS published a paper calling on the Government to reform social care titled ‘Nine Statements to Help Shape Adult Social Care Reform.’ ADASS is The Association of Directors of Adults Social Services. They are a charity made up of current and former directors of adult care or social services and their senior staff.
Social care reform must be centred on a “home first” principle and a shift away from long-stay care homes, their report said. “Reform must be underpinned by the ‘Home First’ principle,” it went on to say. “This is likely to mean a much stronger emphasis on some existing types of care and support which are housing based, such as ‘supported living’ and ‘extra care housing’, as well as new and innovative forms of care.”
Statement seven of the nine statement report focused on the need to prioritise access to technological and digital solutions. It said the focus should be on “ensuring that older and disabled people, families, carers and staff have access to the digital and technological solutions that will benefit them.” It went further on to say “it is vital that we harness all of the power that technology and digital innovations offer us. Whether it is in terms of utilising digital support, tech-enabled housing solutions or enhanced communication tools, we must prioritise and encourage innovation. We must work with entrepreneurs and digital innovation to develop bespoke tools and to harness everyday technology kit to transform, connect and enable better lives.”
This ‘home first’ message supports the wishes of the 96% who want to remain living independently and reinforces the findings of the survey that the over 75s are open to using technology to remain independent (80%), but it is massively underutilised with less than 5% currently having one.
How worried are you that the cost-of-living crisis will impact your ability to adequately take care of yourself as you get older?
Survey responses confirm the cost-of-living crisis is a very real concern for over 75s. In total, more than 70% of respondents expressed some form of concern over how the cost-of-living crisis will impact their ability to take care of themselves as they age. This is a higher number than those who reported it was impacting there day-to-day spending, suggesting this is creating worry for those who are not yet feeling the pinch.
- 11% are very worried
- 60% are worried or somewhat worried
- Only 28% are not worried at all
At SureSafe, we are disheartened to hear just how many older adults have concerns over care-related expenses in the face of the cost-of-living crisis. Naturally, this has a negative impact on mental health.
“The Golden Years should be a time to relax and enjoy life, not stress over care-related costs,” says Daniel Westhead, Director. “We were saddened to hear more than 70% of over 75s are concerned the cost-of-living crisis will impact their ability to take care of themselves as they age. This is a major stressor for many over 75s and can trigger or worsen conditions like depression and anxiety. And of course, quality of life is impacted when the time comes to actually cut back on care-related expenses.”
How much is the cost-of-living crisis impacting your decisions around whether or not to continue living independently, arrange to have in-home care to help you at home, or move into a care home?
For around 60% of people aged 75+, the cost-of-living crisis has not impacted care-based decisions. For the remaining 40%, finances have a role to play when it comes to decisions about living independently, arranging in-home care or moving to an assisted living facility or nursing home. It is worth noting that the 60% who answered that it is not impacting their decisions may have answered this way because they are yet to make any major care-based decisions (for example if they are currently living independently without any issues).
- 6% say it is impacting their decisions a lot
- Almost 34% say it is impacting or somewhat impacting their decisions
- More than 60% say it is not impacting their decisions
Results from this question reveal the cost-of-living crisis is affecting care-based decisions made by two in five over 75s. This number is far too high for a developed nation like the UK, where care is a basic human right, not a luxury.
“At SureSafe we believe care-related decisions should be made based solely on best interests of the individual,” says Daniel Westhead. “It’s unacceptable that the cost-of-living crisis is now impacting not only leisure-related spending but also care-based decisions. More needs to be done, and quickly.”
How the cost-of-living crisis is impacting care-based decisions for over 75s
The results of the survey speak loud and clear. The cost-of-living crisis is taking a toll on the over 75s demographic. Luxuries aren’t the only spending categories taking a hit. Care-based decisions, as well as expenses that affect general health and wellbeing such as food, heating and social activities, have also been impacted by the cost-of-living crisis.
Sadly, this supports the long-standing concern that vulnerable members of society, such as low-income earners and the elderly, are generally hit the hardest by nationwide issues like the cost-of-living crisis.
How technology can help ease the pressure on over 75s during the cost-of-living crisis
Despite the best efforts of charities, advocate groups and policymakers, the cost-of-living crisis continues to gain traction and have a negative impact on over 75s.
As explored earlier, both in-home and residential care are major expenses. The average cost of living in a care home is £800 per week. This increases to £1,078 per week for a full-service nursing home. The average cost of in-home carers, who assist with day-to-day tasks for around three hours per day, sits at £315 per week. Based on the findings of the survey these are not affordable for most over 75’s, the same group who would also overwhelmingly prefer to remain in their own homes for as long as possible anyway.
This has been mentioned already, but it is worth highlighting the point again. Technology can help, most people would use it, but only a fraction currently are. There is a wide array of tech options available to support people’s care needs. This includes virtual wards (also known as ‘hospitals at home’), telehealth, telemedicine, home activity monitoring, as well as personal alarms and telecare devices that can allow the user to call for help in the event of an emergency.
As part of a broader care package, personal alarms can play an important role in helping people remain living independently – safer and for longer. Technology cannot replace physical care (and we must be careful to balance the use of technology to not increase the risk of isolation) but it can be used to reduce the need for some human care. This can make home care more affordable as less hours are needed per week, and can delay the need for moving into a care home for those whose needs are not as advanced yet. This type of assistive technology can help achieve both goals: to help people remain in their own homes, and to help make home care more affordable for more people.
Personal alarms are also proven to have a positive impact on the physical and mental health of the user. Studies show that alarm users (and their families) have more peace of mind, and that they are more active around their homes. For example, elderly people who have a fear of falling and don’t wear an alarm are more likely to stay seated for longer periods of time. This is because they feel the less they are moving around, the less likely they are to fall. People who wear a personal alarm have peace of mind that they can call for help via the alarm if they get into any difficulty, so they feel more confident to be more mobile around their homes.
Not remaining active has a negative effect on the body. Muscle wastage occurs, and there is a loss of strength, balance and flexibility. However, keeping active and mobile improves each of these factors, as well as having a positive impact on the heart, lungs and other bodily functions.
An important part of a broader range of solutions to support a ‘home first’ policy
Being proactive about safety is one of the best ways for over 75s to live independently for longer. Without a personal alarm, for example, a fall can be left unattended for several hours. This can increase the severity of the injury and result in hospitalisation, as well as further complications down the line.
With a personal alarm, the same fall could instead result in a quick visit from a family member or the emergency services. Automatic fall detection technology can quickly summon help and ensure the wearer receives the immediate assistance they need. Fast response times, as well as the potential to avoid hospitalisation, increases the chances of living independently for longer.
It is important to stress that technology is ‘a part of the solution’, not ‘the solution’. An individuals care needs can vary, and they can also change over time. When making decisions about the best way to provide care, an outcome driven approach tailored to the needs of the individual is required. Personal alarms and other assistive technology can supplement and support home care services, potentially reducing the number of ‘man hours’ needed from carers each week. The benefit here is twofold. Firstly, care costs are typically hourly. If you need less hours then it costs less for the care, which in turn makes it more affordable. Additionally, less care hours means the individual feels more independent as they rely less on others, which is positive for their mental health. As discussed previously, it is important to be conscious that tech is not ‘overused’ to the point where the individual becomes isolated – another risk faced by a lot of over 75s.
What have we learned? And, what needs to happen next?
The results of the survey, and subsequent white paper, provides a lot of insights into the cost-of-living crisis and how it affects the care-based decisions of the over 75s. The key messages we want to highlight as essential take-aways are:
- Most over 75s want to remain living in their own homes for as long as possible. We need to find ways to support this goal, allowing people to live independently – safer and for longer.
- While protecting the overall goal of having an outcome focused approach to social care that is tailored to the needs of the individual, social care policy needs to have a ‘home first’ policy to support people’s desire to remain independent.
- Too many people are struggling financially when it comes to both regular living expenses and the costs of care. While not affecting everyone, more needs to be done to make sure people have access to essential care and services. Most people cannot afford home care or nursing home care, which are essential requirements for a lot of over 75s. Home care is a key part of over 75s being able to stay in their own homes longer. If that is unaffordable then people might be forced into care or nursing homes sooner than they need to.
- Broader social care reform is needed. Groups like ADASS have been requesting this for years, with the general consensus being that the system is not fit for purpose.
- Make better use of technology. Technology can play an important role in the care continuum, supplementing home care needs, and reducing it in some instances. People are willing to use technology where it can help them in their goal to remain living independently, but very few currently are. Often individuals wait until after an event such as a fall or a sudden illness to explore how technology can help. More needs to be done to raise awareness of how technology can help, and how it can be preventative as well as reactive. Investing in low-cost technology now has the potential to reduce long-term costs and expenses at both an individual and a health and social care level.
A bit about us:
- SureSafe is a leading personal alarm and telecare provider in the UK and Australia.
- We launched in 2013 and have been developing high quality, user friendly and affordable personal alarms and wearable technology products ever since.
- SureSafe offers both fully monitored alarms that are supervised 24/7 by a dedicated team of professionals, and alarms that call family and friends directly in the event of an emergency.
- You are in safe hands with SureSafe. We have the industry experience you can rely on. We have sold over 150,000 alarms worldwide and help keep tens of thousands of people living safely and independently each and every day.
- We are market leaders in providing cutting edge yet easy to use wearable technology. SureSafe is the leader in mobile personal alarms. SureSafe established mobile alarms in the mainstream market in the UK and Australia back in 2015, and our SureSafeGO range of mobile alarms are the best-selling in their category.
- We are trusted by the professionals. We have hundreds of contracts, agreements and referral processes in place with national and local governments, and health and social care professionals.
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