Financial services – access all areas?

The Government has taken an important step forward in ensuring that financial services work for older people. It proposed an amendment to the Financial Services Act which, for the first time, gives the regulator a mandate not just to protect consumers, but also to ask whether consumers can access the products and services they need.

Age UK has been calling for the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) to be given this ‘access mandate’.  We’ve been convinced of the need for the regulator to look at access because of what we hear from older people – we see many problems caused not just by dangerous products that consumers should be protected from but also because of the lack of products and services that are really accessible to older people.

200x160_moneyBarriers vary:  it could be direct age discrimination – being told you’re ‘too old’ for a mortgage, or credit card, or insurance.  Or it could be indirect, having to jump through so many hoops to find and obtain the right kind of insurance that you give up.   Often the design of services mean they just don’t work for large groups of older people – for example relying on text messages for updates and removing paper statements will make it harder for many older people to manage their money well, the reduction of the branch network and poorly designed telephone and online banking systems will make it almost impossible for others to manage independently at all.
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‘Products and services for older people’ – What does this mean?

The guest blog is written by Mona Shekarriz, Research Associate with Engage Business Network, Age UK. She is working on a Knowledge Transfer Partnership between Brunel University and Age UK to conduct market segmentation and to examine consumer behaviour in later life.

When hearing about a product or service for older people a number of questions come to mind. Who are “older people” and on what basis these products and services are designed and delivered?

A lot of dispute exists on the meaning of old age. Is it simply a factor of our birth date? Is it the life stage we are in? Or does it come from our looks or physical or mental state? Maybe our interests, plans for the future, experiences, our social circle, and financial status…the list could go on and on.

In fact our real age is a combination of all these, but the sad truth is that industries largely judge our age only by our date of birth.  The reason is that we are more comfortable comparing people against the stereotypes we have in mind. These stereotypes come from our social, cultural and personal experiences in life, for instance we assign certain characteristics to older people and others to younger ones. It is much easier for us to ask for someone’s age and start building a picture of their life in our head based on the stereotypes we have.

But if we are working towards a world tolerant of people with different behaviours and interests, why do we make an exception in the way we treat age? Why do we keep asking people’s age and take major actions based on this one piece of information? This is especially damaging for companies designing and developing products and services. 

There are no doubts that ageing causes some physical and mental decline. However it is a mistake to overlook all other aspects of someone’s life and assume their physical and mental state based on their age. With the advancements in technology and medicine, and equality and diversity legislation, people have better opportunities to live longer, healthier and more distinctive lives.

This brings us back to the issue of how products and services specifically for older people are actually being developed. In other words, do we really think of all the above in development and delivery of those products and services?  If a product or service targets people in a certain life stage, the best way to success and to improve the quality of later life is to start understanding people not only by their age, but also by all aspects of their lives.

“Man’s age is something impressive, it sums up his life.  A man’s age represents a fine cargo of experiences and memories.”  Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Learn more about what Age UK does to help make digital technology inclusive for older people.