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IMAGE Why The Finance Foundation?

The Finance Foundation is an independent think tank that aims to encourage informed debate about financial services, explain what the sector does, and suggest ways it could work more...

IMAGE The Future of Cash

We are actively engaged in the current debate on the future of cash. While recognising the drivers towards digital banking, we are concerned that insufficient attention is being given to the needs of...

IMAGE Supporting Growth

Debate continues about the importance of small and medium-sized businesses for growth and banks' willingness to lend to them. Director Andrew Freeman's report, 'Finance for Growth, Challenging...

IMAGE Rebuilding Trust

Corporate culture and behaviour in the financial sector have been under scrutiny since the financial crisis as never before. Shortly after the Parliamentary Commission for Banking Standards published...

Key findings

The very old value the immediacy, familiarity and tangibility of cash

  • Older people are highly dependent on cash for daily purposes and for paying people who do work/shopping for them
  • Cash is also used as the main way of budgeting and keeping track of money by around half of those responding. Nearly two thirds saw no need to use credit cards or were positively opposed to them.

They are fearful of technology and worried about privacy, security and fraud, as well as finding it daunting and difficult to use

  • 87% of the over 80s never use the internet for financial transactions, and those who do use it are generally shopping - only 9% are banking online. Reasons for non-use include not having the internet (75%) and a range of hypothetical worries over fraud, making mistakes and an overriding preference for interacting with people.
  • More than a third have either never used an ATM or avoid them as much as possible. The majority of those using ATMs only do so inside banks, with only one in five prepared to use them in the street. Older people have a wide variety of concerns about ATMs, from worries about privacy, fraud or theft, to physical capacity issues (poor sight, stiff fingers) and anxiety about making a mistake or being pressurised to be too quick.

Older people are concerned about branch closures, about privacy when getting out money and about staff attitudes to older people

  • When asked what banks could do to make things easier for them, older people expressed an over-riding preference for being able to do things face-to-face and not use machines (46%), concern about bank branch closures (38%), a strong requirement for greater privacy and less open-plan space in banks so that they can count out money or discuss matters without being seen or overheard (34%) and a desire for more age-appropriate ATMs with bigger buttons/bigger screens (29%).

 Carers get involved as older people become less physically capable, get more confused or experience bereavement

  • Support from carers ranges from routine matters such as going to the bank with them or checking insurance quotes, to more hands on involvement such as checking statements, setting up internet payments or writing cheques. Carers report a wide range tasks that older people struggle with including understanding changes in their income or outgoings, comparing tariffs/interest rates, being caught out by small print or getting into difficulty if they accidentally miss payments.
  • Carers find it difficult to get support or expert advice from banks in managing their role or understanding how to take greater control and they worry about older people’s vulnerability to fraud, scams and mis-selling.   

These problems are not going to go away. Within the next 15 years there will be 5 million people in the UK aged 80 or over, of whom a staggering 1 million will be over 90. Perhaps some will have managed to adapt to digital and online technology, but it is more likely that, if we do not protect our physical banking infrastructure, we will find them increasingly facing financial exclusion.[1]

Even those few who are technologically savvy as they enter older age may find the physical and cognitive challenges of ageing become too much. Imagine trying to operate the buttons on an ATM or read a screen when you have chronic arthritis, macular degeneration, are semi-paralysed by a stroke or suffering the side effects of chemo-therapy.

“When I’m 84” calls for action across four key areas:

Governance and Regulation – Champions are needed within government and the industry to drive age-proofing of financial products and services. At the same time the government should consider repealing the financial service sector’s exemption from age discrimination legislation and look at whether the Financial Conduct Authority should be given a statutory duty to promote financial inclusion.

Maintaining a physical infrastructure – The industry should commit to long-term funding of a nationwide banking infrastructure to replace the loss of bank branches – either through the current arrangement with the Post Office or a similarly inclusive arrangement. For those older people who have more challenging mobility problems the industry should find ways to provide services at home – including cash delivery – and look at whether pop up banking services could be provided in existing day facilities used by older people.

Supporting family and other carers – The industry needs to devise new and better ways for older people to give limited powers to their carers to carry out tasks such as cash withdrawal, without them having to hand over wider control of their finances. There should be much better and more consistent advice and support to carers when they get to the point of needing to take greater control.

Encouraging age-appropriate design and practice – There should be a concerted effort to encourage further innovations in age-friendly design of technology as well as adapting physical spaces and services to meet older people’s needs. This should include initiatives to develop intelligent robo technology to support older people in staying financially independent for longer.


[1] Financial exclusion is defined in the report as the inability, difficulty or reluctance to access mainstream financial services. Conventionally assumed to be a problem of the unbanked or those with low financial capabilities, the risk is that large swathes of digitally excluded older people will now join their ranks.