Financial abuse is the second-most common form of elder abuse

While some banks have made efforts to become more age-friendly, they need to do more to prevent elder financial abuse.

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Although the finding that elder financial abuse is the second-most common form of elder abuse after physical abuse, came from a 1981 report, now 40 years later, financial abuse and fraud continue to cost older Americans and their families billions of dollars annually, often resulting in permanent damage to their physical and mental well-being according to this article authored by Larry Santucci of the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia.

Furthermore, the report concluded that abuses tended not to occur in isolation, but were often perpetrated simultaneously and displayed a recurring pattern.

Age-friendly initiatives have tended to focus on the physical needs of older people. Automatic doors and ramps to bank branches, larger font sizes on collateral material, and ATM’s that are easier to see, hear and to operate.

Among the 25 effects of ageing (download free paper) we classify these issues as the physical and sensory needs. But what have been less considered are the cognitive needs of ageing customers.

Banks tend to view their primary responsibility to process transactions regardless of the outcome but the surging older populations and increasing incidence of financial fraud made even more prevalent in the digital age, means that more must be done to protect banking customers’ savings from fraud and financial abuse.

The referenced article presents 5 misconceptions banks may have on this subject, which I’ve summarised;

Misconception #1: Elder fraud and financial-abuse prevention programs are too expensive for us.

In addition to training frontline staff to identify signs of fraud and abuse, banks can repurpose existing business systems to monitor customers’ day-to-day transactions for abnormalities.

Misconception #2: Our customers are not asking for elder-fraud and financial-abuse prevention.

A robust program that prevents someone from exploiting an older customer’s savings can lead to improved customer satisfaction and lower attrition rates. It may even help attract new customers from within the victim’s family, impressed with how the bank handled the situation.

Misconception #4: We already practice age-friendly banking. Everything is under control.

As mentioned above, while it is important for any retail business to accommodate people with physical limitations, businesses should also accommodate those with cognitive disabilities, particularly considering that, by age 85, almost two-thirds of adults will experience some form of cognitive impairment.

Misconception #5: We can adequately manage elder-fraud and abuse cases without adding additional resources.

Banks may be unprepared for the continued swelling of the ranks of older adults and the declines in cognitive function accompanying old age.

Banks, or any retail organisation need not fear that responding to the needs of older customers will in some way alienate or repel younger customers. Done correctly, brands can and should appeal across the generations.

We call this, Lifetime Customer Experience.