Jane, who lives in a remote part of Scotland and has a disability, took part in our recent survey about the cost-of-living crisis.
The cost-of-living crisis is having a huge impact on older workers, Workingwise.co.uk’s latest annual survey showed. In our survey, published late last year, almost half (46%) of older workers said they would have to change their retirement plans to cover rising bills. One in ten people had no choice but to “unretire” and return to work. Here is Jane’s story – she is one of many people who may now need to keep working for longer.
“I’ve got a reasonably well-paying job, but there’s no money at the moment left [each month],” says Jane*, aged 57, who works for a patient data company.
Jane lives alone in a remote part of Scotland and works full-time from home. She has a neurological condition that severely affects her mobility, plus other complex disabilities. She also has some mental health issues, including OCD and anxiety.
Jane has struggled to cover her soaring energy costs over the past year. She lives in an old stone farmhouse that is on the grid for electricity, which covers her lighting and her cooker, but is not connected to a gas supply. Instead the house is heated with oil and coal, at a cost of about £1300 per month. Jane says the cost of coal has doubled over the last year and oil has shot up too. She’s looked into upgrading her house to use renewable energy for her heating, but the few local companies that can do this are over-subscribed and short-staffed.
I’ve got a reasonably well-paying job, but there’s no money at the moment left [each month].
“It’s an old stone house, so it’s really cold,” she says. “In summer, you’ve still got to have the heating on because it’s so cold inside – the walls are two-foot thick and the windows are so small, they don’t let any heat or light in. And then in the winter…we get howling gales.”
Jane has to heat several rooms in her house because she fosters animals that need to be looked after temporarily. She plans to stop taking in more animals after the current cohort is re-housed, even though caring for them is good for her mental health.
Jane wants to retire as soon as she can, due to her health issues, but she now thinks she will have to work until her state pension kicks in at 67. If she retired this year, she would have a monthly private pension plus her disability benefits – but this wouldn’t even cover her basic costs due to her energy bills.
“[My only] choice might be to keep working until I’m 67 – but I’m disabled and I’m sick and even working now is hard for me. So, I don’t know what I’m going to do,” she says.
Jane has been referred to her local social services for help around the house – simple tasks like hoovering the stairs completely wear her out. But she says that her local services are over-stretched and have had to prioritise people who are more severely disabled than her. She partly attributes the staffing shortages to Brexit.
“You know, I’m so tired,” she says. “I just want to never work again.”
*The interviewee’s name has been changed at their request. The photo at the top of this story is a stock image and it does not show their house.
Workingwise.co.uk’s annual survey of over 2,000 older workers was sponsored by Santander Consumer Finance. The survey was part of our National Older Workers Week.