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The over-80s are locked out of modern banking

30 June 2011 Northumbria University

A significant gap prevails between the services provided by the UK’s banking industry and the everyday banking practices of people over 80, according to research that will be presented at a conference at Northumbria University next week.

The study of a group of people in their 80s in the North of England captures their financial life stories and reveals that, while the banking industry has pressed forward with new technologies, most older people are nervous of their personal security when using ATMs, phone banking and internet banking.

Furthermore, despite moves to make banking more inclusive, the industry has failed to take into account this age groups feelings towards cash, with new technology unable to adequately replace the material aspects of coins and notes.

The research, which was carried out by Dr. John Vines and Prof. Mark Blythe from Northumbria University’s School of Design in collaboration with teams at the University of York and Newcastle University, will be presented at the 25th annual British Computer Society Conference in Human Computer Interaction from 6 – 8 July.

The study highlights the distance between a lifetime’s experience of banking and the technologically-mediated banking of the 21st century.

The older old prefer to use cash because of properties such as countability, hideability, portability and transferability. Numbers on a computer screen and debit cards are not an adequate replacement for cash.

The research also highlights a resistance against digital technology, partly driven by a desire to maintain tight control of their finances.

In their paper, the researchers conclude: “For many of these eighty somethings, it is important to know that everything is, literally, in hand ... the medium of cash and the network of objects, institutions and people encompassing their life-long experiences of money afford a level of immediate security and trust that becomes opaque in electronic transactions.’’

They add: “This group of eighty-somethings are happy to collect cash, walk down the street with cash and store it in places throughout their homes. They are, more often than not, very aware of the dangers of these practices, but they continue nonetheless. These are practices to be harnessed by designers and policy makers and not to be dismissed.’’

The research adds that while focused on the needs of a minority group, the findings have implications for a much wider audience. “You don’t have to be eighty-something to dislike telephone banking and online password systems, or to find it difficult to keep track of your finances. Quite often, perhaps, the needs of the few are also the needs of the many.”

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