RW-Winter 2012 | Age Friendly Banking

National Neighbors Silver (NNS), NCRC’s multi-year effort campaign to empower, organize, and support economically vulnerable older adults, is currently focused on developing a guide to “age friendly banking” – a standard that includes the services and products that financial institutions can offer to meet the needs of older adults. Currently, there are over 40 million older adults living in this country, and 23 million of them live at or below 250% of the Federal Poverty Level. Ensuring their economic security is vital to keeping older adults in their communities and living independently.  

Older adults are an underserved population with limited choices in terms of financial products and services geared specifically to their needs. It is important that financial institutions recognize and attend to those needs for many reasons. The traditional “three-legged stool” model of retirement, in which retirees would rely on their pensions, their assets and their social security, is deteriorating. Both private companies and public entities are reducing the value of pensions, if not doing away with them entirely. Older adults are frequently being targeted as victims of financial scams and fraud. In addition, the financial landscape is giving way more and more to internet based banking and many older adults are not comfortable with this change.

NNS has developed a set of guiding principles that financial institutions can follow that would make them “age-friendly.” These are:

  • Affordable financial management – financial institutions should provide affordable financial management, including no-cost financial education and free checking, savings, online banking, ATM transactions and teller services;
  • Access to critical income supports – financial institutions should sponsor benefits outreach and enrollment events, and work to prepare older adults for the March 1, 2013 transfer of all federal benefits to an electronic format, known as Go Direct, and reduce the costs for Go Direct;
  • Protection from financial abuse – financial institutions should offer low-to-no cost checking account flagging and fraud alerts as well as caregiver access to account transactions for tracking fraud and scams;
  • Facilitating aging in place – financial institutions should support programs and community endeavors that help older adults remain in their homes, and work with organizations and entities that offer transportation for older adults, and should provide sound advice and counseling on foreclosure prevention and reverse mortgages; 
  • Subsidized housing for low income older adults – financial institutions should make investments that support both housing development and service delivery;
  • Support aging services and advocacy – financial institutions should support aging services, including support for providers and advocates serving low- and moderate-income older adults; and
  • Accessibility of Banking Services – banks need to have well-designed branches with features such as sufficient seating and free water for customers, and they should have easy-to-navigate websites that are accessible to the visually impaired.

NNS is continuing to work with our NNS grantee partners across the country, as well financial institutions and aging experts, to further develop the age-friendly banking concept. NCRC will release a white paper on age-friendly banking early next year.

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