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We are living in a generation of rapid technological innovation. As we observe the ways in which our society has been impacted by these achievements, it’s natural to marvel at the wonders that come with modern life.

Ever since Nationwide launched the UK’s first online banking service in 1997 we’ve seen the banking industry fully embrace digital communication, promoting convenience for its customers and often focused on the cost-saving for itself. Now with online banking deemed the norm it has become commonplace for big business to drive as many customers as possible online. This move has prompted utility providers and telecoms companies to follow suit; in some cases companies have begun charging people for paper bills. Unfortunately, through my work with the Keep Me Posted campaign, I’ve witnessed the real impact this silent move to digital has had on  some of the most vulnerable citizens within our society, no more so than in the case of older people.

At present, only one in 10 people (11%)  over 65 have what is deemed ‘basic online skills’ – including the ability to communicate (send and receive e-mails), search or share personal information (fill in forms, log in to websites). Despite this, so many vital service providers are choosing to dismiss this lack of ability and we have found that it is families, friends and carers who are expected to accommodate for the glaring holes in their customer service. This issue is further complicated once an older person becomes unable to look after themselves. How are you supposed to take over the management of your elderly mother’s finances if she has no physical records for you to look at?

The systems we have in place for managing our finances are very personal. Choosing to disrupt these habits under the guise of assisting customers, banks, utility companies and telecoms providers could create a situation where people lose control of their household expenditure. This would be distressing at any age but for isolated people who are likely to be living on a fixed income, it can cause significant worry and confusion. At present, 80% of consumers aged over 65 choose to receive their bank statements by post and we feel this is a right that can no longer be solely expected - it needs to be demanded and it needs to be protected.

Sources:

  1. Ipsos MORI BBC Digital Capabilities Update, 6-15 September 2013
  2. Opinium Research, Regulation, 24-28 January 2014
  3. Ipsos Mori Survey, 16-28 November 2012

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