State and federal agencies and banks are partnering to enact age-friendly banking practices to teach seniors about the different services and products they offer and social benefits and to protect them against financial abuse and exploitation, four panelists at a conference on aging said.
Four government, banking, housing, community development and geriatric experts in their panel presentation on “Age-friendly Banking” at the Aging in America conference hosted by the American Society on Aging in downtown Chicago said that, with the new national policy, which is aimed at eliminating discriminatory practices toward seniors, older customers can learn about financial services relevant to them, government benefits, retirement plans, financial abuse and exploitation, fraud detection and identity theft.
Robert Zdenck, director of the National Neighbors Silver (NNS), the age-friendly banking division of the National Community Reinvestment Coalition (NCRC), a federal agency in Washington, D.C. charged with increasing capital and credit to underserved communities nationally and ending discriminatory banking practices, said his department has 15 grantees around the country.
“[We provide] community development counseling,” Zdenck said. “We are eclectic [in terms of the nonprofit housing and community programs we fund and provide technical assistance for]. [The aim to increase capital] flow and credit to communities.”
He explained that NNS has a multi-year funding and technical assistance campaign to fund 15 units around the country in the areas of advocacy, organizing and direct service.
It works closely with the banking industry, having cultivated 15 partners, including the California Coalition for Rural Housing, an umbrella group of fair, adequate and affordable housing advocacy organizations in the agricultural regions of California that carries out its policy objectives with the seniors it serves.
He said that NNS assists seniors with their finances in the case of bank foreclosures. NNS also helps seniors secure their estate plans, modifying them to their wishes as necessary, and locates funding and resources for their home improvement goals.
“Why not [provide seniors with] more advice about [their] investments?” Zdenck said. “[Why not tell them about] senior discounts [when they make purchases?] How does the recession limit [their purchases and other financial activity]? Why not [choose] credit unions? [They are a] better deal for seniors.”
One-third of the country’s population banks with credit unions, Zdenck said. The credit unions are the hub of socially beneficial banking, he said.
Among the senior population, the membership of NNS has noticed increased fraud and abuse. The Atlantic Philanthropies funded NCRC’s organizational and advice campaigns against elder financial abuse and exploitation.
“Why age-friendly banks?” Zdenck said. “[With the] increase in the number of older adults [in the country comes] growing economic vulnerability. Fraud and abuse [are] rampant. Financial institutions have a critical role to play [in] fostering [the movement by seniors to] age in place.”
What are banks doing about this upsurge in senior financial abuse and exploitation, he asked? Zdenck responded that, according to federal research, banks and lending institutions will have served 35 to 72 million individuals between the period of 2000 to 2030 on this issue. Twenty percent of these customers will be older adults.
With the decline of what economists call “the three-legged stool,” namely, savings, pensions and income supports, less than 30 percent of the country’s population have defined benefit pensions, the common category of pension plans in which employers promise to pay a specified monthly benefit on retirement determined by a formula based on employees’ earnings, length of time of service and age.