“[We make] recommendations [to enable banks to] create and customize financial products, [including] low-cost, low-fee accounts,” Zdenck said. “[This] requires financial institution staff to identify fraud and abuse. [It all supports] age-friendly banking.
“[Under the GO Direct program sponsored by the Federal Reserve Bank and the U.S Department of the Treasury,] all benefit payments [are scheduled] to go electronic. Direct deposit [is] better [for seniors] than debit cards with hidden fees. Yearly benefit check-ups [are offered] for older adults [to ensure that they are being served properly by government agencies]. [And we help banks work to] expand housing and financial options. [We examine and improve upon] CDFJs [County Department of Job and Family Services] and reverse mortgage.”
The next steps are to generate age-friendly banking papers, Zdenck said. NNS must provide introductory policies, campaigns and age-friendly banking standards to further assist banks in helping seniors, he said.
“[We need to look at the] recession in terms [of] elder abuse,” he said. “It’s so underreported. [There is] an uptake in outreach efforts. [For example, the] Hispanic community [is in great need of such initiatives to examine and prevent elder abuse].
“It may be [a series of life] circumstances [that are involved]. [The] climate [of the caregivers may not be conducive to ending elder abuse]. Elders [should] feel comfortable [enough to conduct financial activity without the fear of abuse]. They [should] know what steps to take and how to report crime. We are realistic partners [with banks] when it comes to assessing and acting on the life circumstances of seniors].”
Stacey Easterling, Program Officer of the Atlantic Philanthropies, the National Council on Aging (NCOA), a nonprofit senior services organization, and Better Directions, a program by the National Federation of Community Development Credit Unions to help low-to-moderate income seniors become economically secure, formed a team to develop and offer earned income credit to low-to-moderate income taxpayers around the country through the Internal Revenue Services (IRS). Benefits checkup for individuals, especially seniors, is only available in at least 20 states, he said.
“We don’t expect [a] doubling [of] banks, [especially the most age-friendly ones],” Zdenck said. “Banks are [expected to learn about], understand [and urge their aging customers to use] benefit screening. Elder individuals are not the only ones who don’t [know about this service].”
NCOA developed benefit calculators of government social assistance programs online at http://www.benefitscheckup.org to enable individuals to determine which forms of aid they qualify for in their states of residence.
Rebecca Rangel, senior vice president of community affairs of Bank of the West in San Francisco, which has branches in 19 states in the Midwest, West Coast, North Central and Southwest regions of the country, said that benefits screening impacts the tax season because of seniors’ financial and government benefits habits.
“IRS has a form [known as the] 888 refund,” Rangel said of the IRS application sheet used to direct taxpayers’ refunds to their bank accounts or to purchase savings bonds.
“[If seniors] don’t see [the] money, [then they] don’t spend. [The idea is to] increase bank networking. Younger people are decreasing bank networking. [They are banking more and more by] telephone [and on the] Internet. [These are critical issues in] branch banking. [We need to make our banks] more accessible.”
To learn more about senior’s banking practices and experiences, Sonia Aery, director of the Asset Building programs of the California Coalition for Rural Housing in Sacramento, Calif., said her organization performed their own research. The coalition’s work can be viewed at its website at http://www.calruralhousing.org.
One of the discoveries made through research, Aery said, is that California has one of the oldest housing industries in the country as well as some of the most affordable homes, many of which are owned or occupied by seniors. The coalition has 15 grantees receiving funding and technical assistance to support community empowerment and eco-activity.
She added that there are three phases of coalition work: the invitation and engagement of member organizations under the umbrella group, assessment of the state of housing and socioeconomic status of communities and the work of the organizations and the implementation of their solutions to issues and problems.
To perform the assessment aspect of the coalition’s work, Aery said that research was conducted on its member organizations.
“[We] sent surveys to [community housing] developer members [of our coalition],” she said. “[We asked what was the] number of [housing] properties [in the state and] where [were they located. How many tenant organizations [were there]? [We learned by] RSVP [that there were] 3,400 [affordable senior housing] units [and] 64 properties statewide.”