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Tips to help seniors cope with the rising costs of energy

The energy price cap rose on 1 April 2022, from £1277 to £1971 a year. That means energy companies can charge more for their services. As a result those on flexible tariffs and anyone paying through a pre-payment meter will see very significant price increases immediately. And the cap is due to rise again in October.

At a time when inflation is on the increase and we’re also seeing higher bills for council tax and utilities, the energy price hikes are going to hit people on fixed incomes very hard.

It’s not surprising that older people and their families are searching Google for practical inspiration to help cut the cost of energy. In the last three months we’ve seen

  • 100% increase in searches on Google for ‘cheapest energy prices for pensioners’ and ‘best energy tariffs for pensioners’
  • 50% increase in searches on Google for ‘best gas and electric prices for pensioners’

Will Donnelly, care expert and co-founder of Lottie, has shared his concerns with When They Get Older: “It is natural to feel stressed and anxious about the rising energy costs, as it will impact everyone. The on-going energy crisis – coupled with the increased living costs – places a huge strain on the elderly community.

“Previous findings from Age UK have also found that millions of older people are dreading the imminent price change.

“There is a risk that older people will become even more isolated, because of these rising costs. Social isolation and loneliness can have a devastating effect on our physical health and wellbeing, leading to higher levels of stress, a weakened immune system, and increased feelings of depression.

“So, it is more important than ever to check in on our older relatives and neighbours, and, where possible, offer practical support to those in need.”

Will suggests a number of practical tips that you could use to help older family members and friends manage their energy use.

Question direct debit increases

With so many households set for a significant increase in the cost of their energy, it’s good to remind people that they can challenge the increased direct debit payment amount with their supplier if they disagree with it. This can be a stressful situation, so offer to support your loved one through this process if you feel they need it.

Their first step should be to contact their supplier and ask them to explain how they calculated the new amount. The customer can also ask the supplier to provide the meter readings on which they based their calculations, to see if they match their own meter readings.

Send regular meter readings

Providing a regular meter reading means a bill will be based on accurate usage.

Although regularly reading the meter can be a chore, it is an extremely important task when it comes to energy bills. Most energy providers offer a wide choice of ways to submit meter readings – you can find this online. Support your loved one by searching for this information and ask them if they need help to submit these readings.

It’s a good idea to submit a meter reading every 3 months. This will allow the energy supplier to keep any estimated readings close to actual usage. If your loved one struggles with their memory, write a reminder on a calendar every few months so that you can submit meter readings together.

Help them choose energy-efficient appliances

Making the right choice about essential appliances can save money, and potentially lower their carbon footprint at the same time.

All appliances must show an Energy Label which indicates their efficiency rating. These run from G (the least efficient) to A (the most efficient). Be mindful that energy-efficient appliances are often more expensive to buy, but they will save more money in the long-term.

This can be an overwhelming and confusing experience, particularly for older people. You can help them find a few different options for any new appliances they need.

Replace light bulbs

Energy-efficient lighting helps lower electricity bills and carbon dioxide emissions, all without reducing the quality of light in our homes.

In the UK, lighting accounts for 15% of a typical household’s electricity bill. As a general guide, we can save between £2-3 per year for every traditional bulb we switch to a similarly bright LED bulb.

Next time you visit an older family member or friend, you could offer to change their lightbulbs, as it can be a difficult task for anyone with mobility or balance challenges.

Fix any leaks

Check your relative’s home for any signs of leaks, as a dripping tap can waste the equivalent of half a bath a week. If they are on a water meter, a dripping tap could even cost an extra £15 a year.

Looking at the bigger picture

Managing energy bills together can become part of the supportive relationship that you develop with your family and friends. All parties can benefit from focusing on caring for each other and themselves. Here are a few more tips to help.

Remember to check in

We all know how hectic life can feel, especially as we are now faced with increased living costs.

However, a simple phone call or regular visit to your relative can make an enormous difference to how they are feeling. Staying connected reduces feelings of loneliness, as well as providing them with a safe space to open up if they are struggling.

Talk to others

Looking after your seniors can place a huge strain on your own physical and emotional health.

Remember to be kind to yourself and make the time to do the things you enjoy, whether that is meeting friends or heading outdoors.

Seek support together

If you are worried or concerned about an elderly relative – for instance that they are neglecting themselves or they are unable to cope with the energy crisis – it is important to seek help.

A good starting point is to contact your local adult social services where your friend or relative lives. Where possible, try to discuss this with them, as it can ease any worries.


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Photo by Erik Mclean on Unsplash

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