Last week, I attended the Dementia Congress in Brighton. The sessions I attended were very interesting but involved being “talked at” rather a lot, whereas I am used to more interaction. I wrote an A-Z list of my immediate reflections, which has proved quite popular. I often found my mind drifting a little, wondering what the real people in my life, particularly my 90 year old mother, would make of it all.
There was one session in particular – well presented but a bit too self-congratulatory for me – with a major bank talking about how they were reviewing their financial products to become more “dementia-friendly”. I applaud this, of course, but was somewhat irritated to contrast the rhetoric with my Mum’s daily experience where the pull is very much in the opposite direction.
Fortunately, currently, Mum has excellent mental faculties. However, I am acutely aware of how fragile this may be, how quickly things can change with the onset of dementia (particularly through the experience of both my “in-laws”) and am keen to help Mum stay independent for as long as possible. She is perfectly capable of handling her finances – IF things stay the same.
Since my Dad died nearly three years ago, she has done really well. She enjoys catching the bus, going into town and visiting the bank to pay in cheques or make out cheques for bills. She does not want everything disappearing behind the scenes in the form of direct debits where she worries whether she has paid – or indeed been paid! She gets print-outs from “the hole in the wall” to check it all!
In practice, I am having to help her more and more with finances as each transaction seems to involve yet another offer to do away with paperwork and everything she holds dear. There are financial incentives everywhere to “go digital”, to hold yet more cards, remember yet more pin numbers (BUT do not use the same ones or write them down anywhere…dementia-friendly?!)
As cheque books are phased out, pensioners who believe in “real money” are more and more likely to carry cash, with all the security risks that this involves. Special rates for on-line payments (including the escalating fuel bills) are penalising older customers financially, and I’d argue equally importantly, in unnecessary loss of independence.
Anyway, I asked Mum what SHE thinks. These are her words, typed up on her computer (no, she doesn’t tell you that bit!) but she had forgotten how to “save” it and gave it to me printed out….
Automation is making life very difficult for older people. The use of cash is fast disappearing.
I do have a Visa debit card which I am perfectly capable of using but many older people do not. People I talk to on our wonderful little “round the town” bus tell me that they do not have a debit card – and don’t want one! Neither do they have a computer, so cannot go on-line.
I have recently had to arrange for my Nat West monthly paper statements to be continued, (another of these “press the buttons” telephone calls to a disembodied voice). Another thing that the Bank will probably do away with in the near future.
Cheques are being phased out.
Supermarkets now have automatic checkouts, which I do not use, on principle. Surely they can keep some sort of relationship with their “valued” customers many of whom speak to no-one else doing the day. This same opinion has been expressed to me by other not so old people who are also refusing to “do it yourself”. Automatic scales in Waitrose greengrocery section are fun – if you can make them work!
The library has shrunk incredibly but you can get all sorts of information there, use the computer, even chat to a policeman, but it is not quite so good if you actually want a book. I suppose we are lucky to have a library still.
As I have said, some people I meet have no daily contact with anyone else. They live alone and have no-one to talk to, so the little shopping trips are a life-line.
I think “they” would rather like to phase out old people altogether but there are a lot of them out there. And I am one of them!
Watch this space!
Perhaps a streak of rebellion against automated processes runs in the family (surely not!). My eldest son told me he had a call last week from Vodafone. My son told the caller “Your call is very important to me, but I am busy at the moment…. and put him ‘on hold’….