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I’m contactless – but in a good way!

I read today that the over-50s are ‘embracing contactless cards’. Based on research by Saga involving 6000 people over the age of 50 the article said that one in every 5 of us over 50 have a contactless card and use it and as often as three times a week! It also mentions that more than 4 out of 10 people aged between 80 and 89 have used their contactless card once.

Hang on a minute though: there are around 58 million contactless cards in the UK so they are as common as the chips they use and the ones we eat (more about chips in our next blog) and given the limit for a single payment using a contactless card increased from £20 to £30 in September we have more opportunities to use them; so why so little engagement by the over 50’s? Perhaps the bridge too far was actually raising the cash limit. Seven out of 10 people questioned said they worry about the security of contactless credit or debit cards!

So what can these statistics tell us? Well if we turn all of them on their head and look at them from a sideways point of view, (difficult, but everything is possible with statistics) it’s more a negative than positive picture. Far from embracing this new technology we are shunning it, and the older we get the more suspicious or perhaps more sceptical we become – but then again the definition of a sceptic is a realist with life experience!

So where’s the relevance for enabling aids and later life – I’m presuming that’s the reason you’re reading this blog?

Like contactless cards at the moment, enabling aids are something few of choose to use, preferring to struggle on and we worry too much when we do have them.

So what are the solutions to what now might be a common set of problems?

The first thing for both is the need to change perceptions. One way is the provision of opportunities to use whatever it is we don’t understand and preferably in familiar environments.

In the same way that the range of places where contactless payments are accepted, Aldi, Greggs, McDonald’s, M6 Toll, London Buses, London Tubes and the Post Office, we have to increase the range of opportunities for people to use enabling aids.

For example, a friend or family member taking the time to regularly go walking with someone who now needs to use a cane or other walking aid can build up an acceptance that these things do offer advantages to their lives and may also help re-build that ‘Dare To Be Purple’ confidence and attitude!

Secondly we need to promote the security and feeling of safety in the use of both; contactless cards and enabling aids. This can be achieved through the provision of information and services. The UK Cards Association backs up contactless cards. They describe instances of fraud on contactless cards as ”extremely rare”, with losses of less than a penny for every £100 spent on contactless – far lower than card fraud generally. Also if your card is fraudulently used you will be reimbursed, as long as you have taken reasonable steps to keep your card safe. Feel a bit safer, a bit more secure?

We need our own association to do the same with regard to enabling aids. To provide a similar supportive framework and the necessary information for people to use their enabling aid.

However, the different services and people involved in enabling aids; health and social services, voluntary organisations, consumer groups, family, equipment retailers etc. have no overarching body and all have well-intentioned but slightly different objectives. This often means that although the information and support can be comprehensive it can also be fragmented, not readily accessible in one place and sometimes in the absence of other opinion, confusing.

This issue is not the exclusive territory of those with complex needs. Those of us with more simple, less complex requirements also want to feel secure, particularly from exclusion or derision. As we previously wrote no one wants to be pointed out as disabled or less-able. We argued that we need to create an environment where good design leads the development of inclusive products and services. We make the same case here, but broaden the call to action. We invite everyone involved in commissioning, supporting and promoting enabling living to consider the person who they are helping and ask of themselves the questions: Would I use this? Is there enough assessable information available? If the answer is no to either then we don’t have a solution, we have a problem that the intended user doesn’t need.

So what’s needed to move things along? Well let’s share advice but consider this advice given by a spokesperson for Saga when talking about contactless cards –   “… people should use their contactless card wisely and only buy things they really need with it as it can be easy to get a bit too tap-happy with your bank or credit card” – well-intentioned but perhaps slightly patronising?

We need advice but more peer to peer discussion is necessary. We need to promote amongst ourselves a wider conversation on the pros and cons of enabling aids not only by those who use them but to include the voices of those who support others to use them.

New things are sometime better, not always, but quite often and we’ll never find out unless we get a more Purple attitude. We need to investigate the value of the products, the services and the opportunities being provided or presented and more importantly challenge ourselves to avoid a ‘beige’ existence and to live a ‘purple’ life! Get tapping away, one way or another you have nothing to lose!



  1. Catherine Rickwood · November 13, 2015

    Interesting piece. I’m curious to know how the use of contactless by over 50’s compares with those under 50. Also, what proportion of retailers have contactless in the UK? Does the local corner store, cafe, or restaurant accept it? Availability and reinforcement of behaviour that this is a widely used and accepted form of payment may influence usage and uptake by over 50’s. In Australia we’ve had contactless for years and I don’t notice a difference in use by age. However, it’s utilised by all types of retailers from the local corner store, to the hole-in-the-wall coffee shop, to beach cafes, to service stations and large retailers.


    • daretobepurpleian · November 19, 2015

      Hi Catherine, We don’t have all the answers to the questions you ask I’m afraid. This link gives some statistics for 2015. On the whole usage is increasing and most shops and restaurants now have the new terminals in place. The facts about the over 50’s were reported by Age Concern here in the UK this month so quite current. As you say, availability and reinforcement of behaviour should influence usage in the over 50’s but reported ‘cyber attacks’ the latest on Talk Talk, a mobile phone provider where personal customer details were accessed, tend to make people wary for a short while. Given most of us don’t trust the automatic doors are train toilets, new technology is always treated with some caution.


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