If I made unreasonable demands on older people to make my own life easier, that would be elder abuse.
If I made older people feel uncomfortable, unsafe and unheard to make money for myself, that would be elder abuse.
If I demanded older people comply with my agenda so that I could profit at their expense, that would be elder abuse.
But when banks do all of those things, it's called good business and is wholeheartedly endorsed by younger people. Why is that not elder abuse?
When banks got rid of cheques they promised business would go on as usual for older people because they could all learn to use internet or phone banking. I consider that an unreasonable demand. First, because for internet banking older people would have to purchase – at their own expense – a device capable of internet access. Second, because if they did not already have a device, this new purchase would be to facilitate one function, their banking. When you're living on a pension, banking is hardly a daily priority. Third, it opens up the possibility of internet scams and hacking. Fourth, if you're living in an area with poor internet access, it's a moot point. The phone or device becomes a paperweight until you travel somewhere else.
So we come to telephone banking. That would be a good option if the telco companies weren't trying everything in their power to remove landlines and make everyone go digital, thus taking away the only really reliable means of communication for many people. When the internet goes down or is unavailable, as it is in many areas of our country, copper-wired landlines remain and communication continues. If landlines are removed and phones rely on internet access, phone banking in many areas becomes impossible.
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What, then, are banks going to do for their customers who are in this predicament? Having already made life difficult with their unreasonable demands, are they going to step up on their behalf, advocate for them with the telcos, or spend some of their massive profits trying to find a solution? No, they're not. So why is that considered good business and not elder abuse?
By getting rid of cheques because they constitute only one per cent of transactions – which is still a heck of a lot of transactions – they have sidelined the most vulnerable sector of our society and made life impossibly difficult for many of them.
Even if our older people were prepared or could afford to pay out for a device and an internet plan (just to do their occasional banking), the infrastructure is not in place to make online banking a viable option across the country. It was bad enough trying to post a cheque while NZ Post is busy getting rid of its workforce and reducing postal services.
The traditional way of doing banking is to actually go to the bank and complete a transaction over the counter. Those who can't access the internet or use phone banking would be advised to do that. But wait: banks are closing branches, and the few that remain open charge extra for personal contact banking.
In reality, of course, a customer would rarely make it to the counter before someone, employed especially for this purpose, leads them to a metal, plastic and glass machine and guides the customer through the transaction, electronically and impersonally. It saves money on staff and removes the personal, friendly aspect of banking. But who cares what the customer wants or needs?
Too often, profit comes before people, but in this era when shareholders' interests are paramount and chief executives earn lottery-sized salaries, big business is making life difficult for people who deserve a lot better.