Mind the gap

By Teamspirit on Thursday, 23 June 2022

Beware of ‘locking-out’ older consumers with assumptions around technology use.

Trying to help my elderly parents get proof of their COVID-19 vaccinations at short notice before a recent holiday abroad, I quickly saw how difficult and frustrating life can be for anyone who doesn’t have a smartphone or email address.

After multiple, lengthy phone calls to different government departments and healthcare agencies, we finally got there. But it took a huge effort, and they could never have done it alone. This got me thinking about the danger of making assumptions about peoples’ technology use.

As with many sectors, in financial services, consumer technology is almost exclusively developed by people in the 20-40 age bracket. The same can be said for product development and marketing – the people whose job it is to deliver what customers want and need. The danger with this is that they often only see customers in their own image: as digitally savvy or digital-natives.

The result is that older generations can quickly become left behind or even left out entirely. How many people realise that 37 percent of those aged 65 - 74 don’t have an email account (for people over 75, it’s 44 percent)? Or that 45 percent of those aged 65+ don’t use smartphones to go online?

While the global pandemic forced many older, reluctant internet users to learn new digital skills and adopt new internet habits, there are still many older people who cannot or don’t wish to access financial services online. They may have visual impairment, lack confidence or be put off by digital fraud. At the same time, older cohorts of the population have huge spending power. Latest ONS data shows that median total wealth of people in their early 60s is almost nine times higher than those aged in their early 30s.

Awareness of digital exclusion on its own, isn’t enough. We all need to be mindful of leaving behind older consumers in the rush to embrace a digital economy, and ensure we act accordingly to prevent it. This is not just good for society, it also makes shrewd business sense. And it might just save relatives of elderly parents like me a few grey hairs too.