Banks need to pay special attention to elderly customers

A writer says that banks should do more to help elderly customers, including those suffering from cognitive decline.
A writer says that banks should do more to help elderly customers, including those suffering from cognitive decline.ST FILE PHOTO

While I was standing in a queue at a POSB ATM recently, an elderly woman in front of me was having trouble withdrawing money.

I offered to help her and, while talking to her, suspected that she was suffering from age-related cognitive issues.

I calmed her down and she slowly regained her confidence and succeeded in recalling her password.

Do banks do anything extra to help poor elderly people suffering from cognitive decline, like this woman? Singapore needs more senior-friendly banking services.

Apart from Alzheimer's disease and illnesses related to dementia, age-related mental deterioration is becoming increasingly common.

Older people are more likely to struggle with day-to-day banking tasks and are more susceptible to poor investment decisions.

They are also more vulnerable to fraud or financial exploitation, often by their own relatives.

The latest statistics show that there are about half a million Singaporeans aged 65 and above - making up 13.7 per cent of the residential population. They are easy prey for con artists, who may be out to exploit the cognitive decline in older people.

Banks need to act faster in helping such seniors.

Most age-friendly measures have focused on accessibility for people with disabilities or helping people to get online.

It is time for banks to recognise that cognitive decline is also part of the problem.

Banks need to be quicker to put in place special technology or trained staff to help elderly customers.

The authorities should also consider giving limited power of attorney to a trusted family member who can help the senior with his banking needs.

When customers show signs of cognitive decline, banks need to be ready to assist those who are at risk, and work with doctors and social workers to help them.

Francis Cheng

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 06, 2017, with the headline 'Banks need to pay special attention to elderly customers'. Print Edition | Subscribe