Age-Friendly Banking for Filipino Seniors

The COVID-19 pandemic forced Filipinos to change their way of interacting with their banks.

As contactless payment methods and social distancing become the new normal, digital banking would most likely be the go-to option for most Filipinos even in a post-COVID-19 Philippines. From opening new bank accounts and applying for loans to depositing money and transferring funds, many customers will likely be more inclined to carry out their business online unless they absolutely need to visit physical bank branches to complete their desired transactions.


Given this new reality, it is essential to point out that while the younger generation of Filipinos can probably  easily adjust to the new normal because of their familiarity with technology, their older counterparts may struggle a bit. After all, elderly individuals tend to better appreciate the idea of having routine activities to do, such as paying for their bills and dues in person. And since they grew up without the internet, most of them will need guidance when it comes to navigating the world of online banking.


How Can Digital Banking Benefit Older People?


Many lolos and lolas find online tools to be troublesome and time-consuming. Some of them also believe that these technologies are complicated, so they are not as inclined as younger individuals to try them out. However, helping them learn g about how financial digitization initiatives can benefit them is an effective strategy to make technology more palatable for them.  Here are some points to consider:


Offers Independence


A lot of older people can no longer manage to go to the bank on their own. They need a family member or a trusted friend to drive them out or assist them in riding buses or jeepneys, as well as to help them cross the street or even simply to walk. Their banking schedule is entirely dependent on the availability of their companion. If nobody is free to accompany them, then they have no choice but to stay at home.


Imagine how frustrating it can be for the elderly to be dependent on others when they have been used for many years to go wherever they want, whenever they want. Fortunately, online banking can bring back that sense of freedom since they wouldn’t have to visit banks, stores, and service providers in person.


If they want to check their account or monitor their transactions, they can do it by themselves by simply logging in to their account using a computer or smartphone.


Prevents Health Risks


Older adults are prone to injuries like slip and falls due to being less physically capable. They also face a significant risk of developing severe illness if they contract diseases like COVID-19. Even the intensely hot weather in the country can be detrimental to their health. These risks to health and safety can be avoided with the help of digital banking.  Through this technology, seniors can access different bank services in the comforts of their homes.


Provides an Easy Way to Pay Bills and Track One’s Finances




Reputable financial institutions offer automatic bill payment features, such as the Meralco ADA by Robinsons Bank. This automated platform allows enrolled clients to pay their Meralco bills using automatic debit of account arrangement. Through such features, seniors do not have to worry about missing another payment ever again.


Also, digital banking makes it possible for older clients to monitor their finances and transactions. They can easily view their bank statements and see their balance up to the last transaction by logging online whenever they want.



What Are the Online Banking Challenges Faced by Older Filipinos and the Ways to Overcome Them?


Even though digital banking offers numerous advantages to senior citizens, barriers still exist and must be addressed to convince the majority of elderly Filipinos to fully embrace this innovation. Below are some of these challenges and the ways to overcome them:


1.) Threat of Fraud


The threat of fraud among aging Filipinos is all too real as they tend to be easy prey to scammers and other criminal elements. Apart from being less technically inclined, most of them also have hard-earned retirement money in their bank accounts, making them even more attractive to fraudsters.


While there are numerous financial scams that target senior citizens, phishing schemes are the most common. The Cybercrime Division of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) reported a staggering 200 percent increase in phishing scams alone since the country went on lockdown back in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic.


Fraudsters take advantage of many seniors’ limited knowledge of digital services and trusting nature by sending text messages or calling them to reveal personal information. These scammers impersonate bank employees and falsely claim that there are security issues with the elderly’s bank account that they need to resolve. Their main goal is to get their target’s confidential data, such as passwords and bank account information, to easily access the account of the unsuspecting lolo or lola online.


How to Address the Issue?


There is no single foolproof way to protect older individuals from online banking scams completely. The solution requires a concerted effort from the seniors and their families, the financial institutions, and the government.


For instance, seniors should make an effort to learn more about the various cybercrimes plaguing the country today. One important bit of information they shouldn’t forget is  to never give their personal information over the phone or through email and text messages unless they are the ones who communicated with the bank. Their family members should also encourage them to seek the family’s assistance if they receive any suspicious notification.


As for financial institutions, they should continuously improve their technology and monitoring techniques to secure customer data. They should also find ways to protect customers from fraud and irregularities. The 3D Secure/One-Time Password (OTP) feature of Robinsons Bank Visa Debit Card is a good example. This security feature provides an additional layer of protection to deter unauthorized transactions.


In addition, the government should also double its efforts to arrest cybercriminals and to keep citizens informed. Hopefully, Senate Bill 1376, known as the Senior Citizen’s Fraud Education Act, filed by Senator Nancy Binay will also get enacted soon. The proposed bill aims to protect senior citizens from fraudsters through intense information dissemination and easy complaint filing.


2.) Lack of Trust in Technology


Many Filipino seniors use social media, especially Facebook, to get in touch with long lost friends and relatives. However, many of them are not comfortable using online banking technologies. When it comes to their finances, older individuals tend to trust people more than gadgets and machines.


This seeming distrust of technology may stem from a lack of understanding of the way it works. Financial applications may appear complicated, confusing, and foreign to seniors. On the contrary, branch banking is something they are already used to. It also offers personalized interaction, not just words and buttons.


How to Address the Issue?


Whether banks and financial technology developers realize it or not, practically all banking apps are geared toward the younger generation. This leaning is evident when you look at the app designs and marketing campaigns for digital banking.


How can financial institutions instill trust in their online initiatives when they are not exerting enough effort to reach the senior population? Perhaps it is high time for them to create elderly-friendly apps. For instance, they can use larger fonts and clear visual prompts to make navigation easier.


They can also include a “human touch” by adding video chat options and links to customer service executives rather than merely relying on impersonal text messages. Note that it is easier to instill trust and confidence if customers can see a friendly face or talk to someone while using these unfamiliar technologies.


3.) Lack of Technical Skills and Confidence


Many older individuals are not afraid to use platforms like social media apps because there is no drawback to using them. They can click unknown buttons without fear of harmful consequences. Conversely they tend to not have the same confidence when using financial apps. Many are afraid to try for fear of making a mistake that could cost them to lose their hard-earned savings.


Unfortunately, it does not help that online banking instructions are too professionally written and quite difficult to understand by people with minimal exposure to digital technology. Many seniors feel lost as soon as they log in to their accounts.


How to Address the Issue?


Younger people who grew up surfing the internet should patiently teach their lolos and lolas how to use banking apps and be comfortable with technology. Banking institutions and developers, for their part, should create products and apps tailor-fitted to the needs and capacity of older people.


Instructions written in Filipino or Taglish is also something that can be explored. They can also hold webinars or create free videos teaching older clients how to conduct their day-to-day banking online. It will also help if the banks set up dedicated phone lines for seniors manned by personnel who can readily assist older clients on their digital banking needs.


The COVID-19 pandemic forced Filipinos to change their way of interacting with their banks. And while millennials and gen Z-ers have no trouble adjusting, the discussion points above clearly show that much needs to be done to ensure that Filipino seniors will be able to cope with the changes as well. At the end of the day, banking products and services should be age-friendly, meaning they should remain accessible and convenient as people age.