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Age-Friendly Banking Principles

How can we acknowledge and respond to the difficulties faced by older adults?

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This is-depth study on age-friendly banking by the National Community Reinvestment Coalition aims to serve as a basis to expand the dialogue between community-based organizations, aging networks, and financial institutions on how to develop and implement age-friendly banking strategies and initiatives. From their research, they created some age-friendly banking principles which I have distilled below:

1. Protect Older Adults from Financial Abuse

One of the main challenges in responding to elder financial abuse is the lack of awareness and training for financial institution staff. Better education on how to recognize and intervene in situations of fraud can help bring financial institutions into a position to help at-risk older adults.

2. Customize Financial Products and Services for Older Adults

Currently, financial institutions offer a limited selection of products aimed at all income levels of older adults. The most frequent product is the so-called “senior”
account. Some “senior” accounts have higher monthly fees than basic checking accounts offered at the same institution. Additionally, financial institutions must develop products and services beyond traditional checking and savings accounts. Various retirement and financial management plans would be helpful for all older adult income and asset ranges.

3. Expand Affordable Financial Management

Financial institutions should offer financial education programs geared towards older adult financial circumstances or partner with organizations that offer them. Community-based organizations and local governments can also design and sponsor financial awareness and education sessions that go over basic financial how-to's as well as more complicated matters such as bankruptcy and dealing with financial fraud.

4. Access Critical Income Supports

Without the income provided by Social Security, 45.2 percent of older adults would live below the federal poverty line. In addition to Social Security, other income and benefit supports improve the financial well-being of older adults and give low-income older adults the ability to stay healthy and remain productive.

5. Facilitate Aging in the Community

Many older adults want to remain in their houses, but the houses often need to be modified to accommodate the owner. These modifications can include wider doorways to accommodate mobility equipment such as wheelchairs and scooters, and no-step entrances among others. Federal and state programs, such as Community Development Block Grants and Department of Agriculture grants, are an important resource for supporting aging in place, but federal funding only accounts for about 20 percent of needed home modifications in this country.

6. Improve Accessibility to Bank Locations and Services

The decline of bank branches has negatively affected many older adults. The ability to physically access a financial institution makes a huge difference in any older adult’s economic security level. Online banking has worked for millions of Americans, but not for those older adults who do not use or understand electronic technology. This doesn't mean that older adults are unable to make use of the internet, but likely reflects the lack of accessibility or training. Something as simple as having in-branch computer terminals and ready to-assist branch personnel, could improve online banking usage among older adults at a low cost to financial institutions.

What is a provocation or insight that might inspire others during this challenge?

A coordinated and large-scale response to the stark economic challenges today's older adults face is needed from financial institutions, government regulators, community-based advocates and the aging network.

Tell us about your work experience:

I am a Data Artist at Tableau and a student in the Integrated Digital Media program at NYU.

Specifically, please check all that apply:

  • I'm currently a member of a credit union

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Photo of Kate Rushton

Hi Cynthia, interesting post! Any chance you could find an image to go along with it? Images help grab attention and tell a story. You should be able to use the Edit Contribution button on the top of your post and follow the instructions to add images from there. Looking forward to seeing more of your inspiring insights on OpenIDEO.

Photo of Cynthia Andrews

Kate Rushton Done & done!