Is age a factor in financial exclusion? How the older old manage their daily finances in today's increasingly digital world

The older old – those over 80 – are the fastest growing section of the population. Currently numbering just over 3 million, this will increase to 3.5 million by 2020 and a staggering 5 million by 2030, of whom 1 million will be over 90. As more people live longer and, crucially, aspire to live independently for longer, often at some remove from family support, it is imperative that all sectors, not just health and social care, are equipped to respond.

Research carried out by the Finance Foundation and published in September 2016 – “When I’m 84”. Locking the Door on the Older Old: The Challenge Facing Britain’s Banks – looks in depth at the issues faced by those in their 80s, 90s and beyond in managing routine financial matters. It considers their preferences for different types of transaction – cash or card, face-to-face or machine – as well as their attitudes to credit and their views on new technology. It goes on to explore the physical, cognitive and social challenges that ageing presents as older people strive to continue to manage day-to-day tasks such as cash withdrawal, keeping track of their money and arranging bill payments, and the changes that they would like to see to support them going forward.

It concludes that the sector can no longer assume that there is a homogenous group of financial consumers, or that there is a unidirectional pattern of progress towards the universal adoption of technology for day-to-day financial management. It therefore calls into question the assumption that financial exclusion – defined as the inability, difficulty or reluctance to access mainstream financial services – is primarily about the unbanked or those with very poor financial capabilities. The unique physical and cognitive challenges faced by the older old and their clear requirement for a more traditional way of managing financial transactions now also puts this growing section of the population at risk of financial exclusion as more and more bank branches are being closed down in response to the increased automation of everyday banking tasks.