Foreign residents and elderly in Spain concerned about digital divide

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digital

MÁLAGA – Foreign residents on the Costa del Sol believe that government agencies and banks are too often using the corona pandemic as an excuse for the increasing amount of digital services and the accompanying lack of personalized services. Spanish elderly people also experience problems in this area.

This writes the newspaper SUR in English on Friday. In recent weeks, a campaign has been launched in Spain to expose the problems older people experience when using new technologies, such as digital banking.

Ignored in the digital age

In addition to the Spanish elderly, foreign residents also encounter difficulties when they want to make an appointment at a health centre, solve a problem with the municipality or perform standard transactions at their bank. Many feel ‘ignored’ in this digital age.

No understanding for pandemic as an excuse

According to the people who spoke to SUR in English, ‘the authorities do not understand the magnitude of the problem’. That is why there needs to be a policy change, they say. Nor are they satisfied with the pandemic as an excuse for the extensive introduction of online services. These are not easy for everyone to understand. People really need some digital skills. Some of the surveyed expats get the feeling, especially at banks, that they are being ‘fobbed off’.

‘Personal service is no longer there’

One of them says: “The banks just don’t care, which is terrible. It doesn’t matter what you try to do. The first thing they ask you is if you have made an appointment online. If you didn’t, you will be sent away. There is no such thing as personal service anymore.”

Lack of empathy

Another mentions the unsafe feeling when she is doing her banking at an ATM. Especially if she wants to withdraw larger amounts of cash. In general, people marvel at the lack of empathy. Bank employees would not put themselves in the shoes of their customers who are not as digitally skilled.

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There is help

There are organsations that try to help older citizens improve their digital skills through meetings and workshops. Here they receive an explanation of how to deal with services via the internet. This is something that the Age Concern organisation provides, among others. Still, according to spokesman Steve Marshall, banks and governments can do a lot more to accommodate the elderly. 

Petition for humane treatment of the elderly

The 78-year-old Carlos San Juan started the debate about this in Spain. He organised a petition on Change.org for more humane and personal treatment of the elderly by banks. He denounces the increasing number of digital services that are difficult for the elderly to use. Today, 645.000 people signed the petition. On February 8 San Juan presented 600,000 signatures to the Economy Ministry & Bank of Spain. Both the petition and Carlos’ demand were well received by the media as a campaign under the hashtag #SoyMayorNoIdiota (I’m older, but not an idiot).

Proposed non-binding measures

Last week, under pressure from the media and at the request of Minister Calviño of Economic Affairs and Digital Transformation, the banking sector sent a protocol to the government with proposals to improve services for the elderly. The rapid response, according to Carlos, did have a handicap: all the proposed measures were of a voluntary nature, without any binding character.

Proposal

Among the measures were extending the opening hours of the bank counters, priority for the elderly during peak hours, a specific person at each branch for the elderly users; a more efficient telephone service; making better applications and clearer ATMs, and organising workshops to improve the digital skills of older people.

Related post: Bank of Spain wants an alternative for closed banks and ATMs

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