OPINION: Tech advances are coming at the elderly's expense

Rachel says cash is still the first choice for millions of people in the UK

Rachel says cash is still the first choice for millions of people in the UK - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

When the world changes at such a speed you increasingly feel an outsider and simple life practices have shifted so far they now seem like a foreign language, it must feel terrifying.

The fear, panic and sheer befuddlement someone in their 80s must when feel when faced with cold, faceless demands to use an app when they have no idea what an app is and pay via an app with a credit card, which they don’t have, is discombobulating.

Faced with a cashless parking machine when they’re late for an appointment with no smartphone is more than bewildering, it feels demeaning and discriminatory.

It is discriminatory – and isolating, and is causing unnecessary distress.

There’s no one to ask and, under pressure, they are anxious they will get into trouble if they go to their appointment and leave their care.

All they want to do is pay by cash. Cash is king and always has been for many people over 60.

The Covid-accelerated gallop to a cashless society is creating a divided society, and a heartless one, that doesn’t give a jot about those without the tools, know-how or inclination to join in being left out in the cold

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While some of us are perfectly happy waving a card at a machine, using apps, online banking and running our lives online, we must not forget those who aren’t digitally literate because they have never had to be.

Increasingly the cashless society is excluding a generation of people who simply want to pay real money rather than plastic or online.

They like the transaction of cash in shops, cafes and pubs. They know where they are with cash and why, for others’ convenience, should they have to change the habits of a lifetime?

Cash is legal tender. It is unfair of businesses to refuse to accept it.

It’s disenfranchising and taking away an important choice in their lives.

Music journalist Pete Paphides wrote poignantly on Twitter this week about his elderly father’s cashless parking experience.

While waiting an age on an automated phone system for a human voice so he could explain that his father wouldn’t be paying a parking fine from a cashless parking machine that left him bewildered and stressed on his way to a friend’s memorial service because he had died between the ‘offence’ and the fine landing on his doormat.

His story clearly hit a nerve.

Silver Line founder Dame Esther Rantzen shared Paphides’ concern by calling on businesses not to fine older people excluded from their new ‘rules’ by not having the means.

It’s not just the elderly affected, people with learning disabilities, manual dexterity issues caused by arthritis and other disabilities and those with no smart phones.

Around one in five or 2.4 million people aged 65 and over rely on cash to a great extent in their day-to-day life, according to the Financial Lives 2020 Survey by the Financial Conduct Authority.

A more recent survey from January 2021 found more than half of over-65s, or nearly 6.3million people, had used cash within the past week, despite the UK being in a national lockdown and many older people shielding at home.

Nearly three-quarters of over-65s, about 8.8 million people, had used cash at some point in the past month, along with two-thirds of under-65s - 25 million adults - had also done so within that time.

Older and disabled people often want to have cash at home to give family, neighbours, and volunteers who shop and pay bills for them.

Yet businesses announce with pride that they no longer take cash.

London’s O2 has a wide range of attractions, including a cinema and multiple restaurants and stores. It also plays host to some of the world’s biggest music acts. It has gone cash-free.

Companies, including Tesco and Amazon, have been experimenting with cashless walk-in, walk-out stores. The number of card-only self-checkout terminals across the grocery sector has also been rising.

Access to cash and using it is a growing issue for people, with banks in towns and villages closing and the assumption by big business that everyone is digitally literature and lives on line.

Being cut off from easy access to cash is also discriminatory.

It might be that 99.7 per cent of people live within 5km of access to cash, but 5km is quite a distance for an elderly or disabled person to manage in an area with limited public transport, an issue that has been much less widely discussed is their ability to use the cash once they’ve taken it out of the ATM.

Age UK says Being cut off from cash and banking services is tantamount to being excluded from society and Which? has signed up thousands of shops to a pledge to continue to accept cash.

People must not be left in a position where they can’t buy essential products and services because they cannot access or pay with cash.

Cash helps people on a low-income budget more effectively and offers an essential back-up for those not online or living in an area with poor connectivity.

The rest of us don’t help by swiping and going contactless. 'Declining use and provision of cash consequently mean that more and more businesses and other service providers are refusing to accept it - a vicious circle.

The rapid move to online banking and digital payments has left many struggling because of the technology.'

Little things that we take for granted suddenly become huge problems.