Making virtual cash OAP friendly

News Editor

The Engineer

According to the popular saying, ‘life begins at 40’, which makes me wonder what the other 39 years were all about.

However, as the big Four Zero approaches for yours truly, thoughts turn to those who passed that particular milestone forty years prior to myself and inhabit a beguiling world of “digital this” and “internet that”.

There are, apparently, nearly 2.4 million people living in Britain who are aged 80 and over and in the March 22 issue of The Engineer my colleague Siobhan Wagner will be revealing research taking place that aims to make digital banking more inclusive for elderly people, especially the six per cent of people aged over 85 who do not have a bank account.

A team from Newcastle and York Universities are working with Barclays Bank to develop assistive technology for older people who feel uneasiness with internet banking or chip and pin cards.

In India, great strides have been made by the Bank of Maharashtra in introducing biometric ATMs. Rather than remembering a PIN number, the account holder uses a finger print to access their account.

Over an 18 month period the researchers will test out some of their ideas, which include a wallet shaped foldable display where one half would display recent transactions with dates and amounts. The other half would display current balance.

Project leader Andrew Monk, a researcher in human computer interaction at York University, believes other assistive technology devices could mimic the ‘physicality’ of cash as some elderly people, used to living in a cash economy, distrust the convenience of ATMs as there is no way to immediately see the amount of money being withdrawn.

One hurdle for the team is the fact that elderly people are often uncomfortable with remembering PIN numbers and passwords. In India, however, great strides have been made by the Bank of Maharashtra in introducing biometric ATMs. Rather than remembering a PIN number, the account holder uses a finger print to access their account.

This attempt to make technology more inclusive is certainly laudable and will rightly gain column inches in publications such as The Engineer.

However, the researchers point out that many older people who do not have a traditional bank account have a Post Office account, which allows them to withdraw money from staff at the counter and for me this is a vital piece of information.

That trip to the Post Office to withdraw money offers the chance of human contact and interaction. By removing it there just might be the chance of making a widow or widower feel that little bit more isolated and removed from the world.