AARP Report Confirms Heating Challenges for Seniors

February 15, 2013 — The AARP Policy Institute's most recent report re-affirms why LIHEAP grantees are required to do outreach to elderly low-income households. The report states many low-income seniors will struggle to heat their homes this winter due to colder temperatures and higher heating costs.

The report documents how heating with any type of fuel will be more expensive this winter than in 2011-2012. The 14 percent of customers over 65 years old that heat their homes with fuel oil can expect the biggest increase in expenses this year (over $500). Not surprisingly, seniors living in the New England region will likely be hit hardest, as fuel oil is the primary source of heat.

While data shows that low-income seniors use less heating fuel than those with higher incomes, their financial burden is much higher. Approximately 30 percent of senior households have total incomes of less than $20,000. This demographic has the highest energy burden across the board, no matter what fuel type they use to heat their homes. The report includes a graph illustrating the differences in energy burden.

Finally, the report concludes with a table demonstrating that increases in heating costs has consistently outpaced the average LIHEAP grant since 2004. For example, the average LIHEAP assistance for recipients fell to $417 in 2011-2012 from its highest point of $502 in 2009-2010. In contrast, the average expenditure for heating only decreased from $914 to $909 during the same period. The US Department of Health and Human Services has estimated that about 32 percent of the households receiving LIHEAP assistance have at least one senior occupant.

heating expenditures vs. average LIHEAP grant

Sources: AARP Policy Institute, Congressional Research Service