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  • Foto do escritorJornal O Cola

"I'm old, NOT stupid"

Leonardo Fernandes and Sofia Lopes
Translated by Leonardo Fernandes

In early 2022, Carlos San Juan, a 78-year-old retired doctor from Spain, founded the movement "Soy mayor, NO idiota" ("I'm old, NOT stupid"). He iniciated his campaign through a simple petition in, the largest online platform aimed at promoting change.

The Spanish pensioner realized that, after the pandemic, most banking services remained remote, requiring the use of technological equipment, such as a computer, and internet access to be carried out. With the shift of these services to the World Wide Web domain, there was an even greater exclusion of a certain number of customers, such as the elderly, whose majority is not an avid user of the internet, unlike the young adults.

On the petition, San Juan wrote, “I am almost 80 years old and it saddens me plenty that the banks have forgotten the elderly, like me. Now, everything is on the Internet… and not all of us understand technology. We do not deserve this exclusion.”

In addition, Carlos regretted the closing down of several bank branches throughout his country, which forces the use of methods that are not very accessible for those who find it difficult to keep up with technological advances or those who suffer from mobility problems: “They keep closing branches, some ATM's are complicated to use, others break down and no one will answer your questions. There are transactions that can only be done online... And, in the few places where there is face-to-face service, the opening hours are very limited. You must book it in advanced by call, but no one picks up the phone. They'll eventually redirect you to an app that we, once again, don't know how to use, or send you to a distant branch, that you might not be able to reach. (…) A lot of elderly people are alone and have nobody to help them. Many others, like me, want to remain as independent as possible at this age.”

However, the shutdown of branches and the transfer of face-to-face services to cyberspaces were not the only reasons that instigated San Juan to start this movement. The kind of treatment provided to seniors also revolted the pensioner, who confessed to having often felt humiliated for not knowing how to use the app of the bank of which he is a client and to having witnessed similar situations involving other elderly people: “ (…) They talked to me as though I was an idiot for not being able to complete a task in the application. And I saw this mistreatment directed at other people. It hurts a lot to feel like this. We, elders, exist, are many and want to be treated with dignity. We only ask for the existence of sections branch spaces where they won't exclude us anymore.”

In the end of the petition, San Juan pointed out to the banks operating in Spain and demanded a “more humane service” towards the elderly members of the Spanish society, “without technological obstacles” and “with more patience.”

A month after the campaign, in February, the petition had 647,950 signatures and reached what it intended: the attention of banks, the pressure of the government and change.

The Deputy Prime Minister of Spain and former Minister of Economy, Nadia Calviño, then contacted Carlos San Juan and, together with the Spanish Banking Association, signed a protocol that seeks greater financial inclusion. In this protocol, there are some measures to be complied with by the banks, such as extending face-to-face service hours, repairing out of order ATMs within two working days, changing applications in terms of accessibility, such as simplifying menus and increasing font size, holding financial education seminars for elderly customers, among others.

Faced with this, San Juan felt extremely satisfied, since “ it was difficult, but we did it! This comes to show that by coming together, the citizens can have a loud voice and that we must push further ahead to make ourselves heard. I started this petition because it hurt me plenty to see so many people unattended and suffering. Today, I feel like a part of their lives will improve and (…) everything that happened due to this petition, made it worthwhile.”

This story takes on special relevance in Portugal, upon looking at the fact that we are a demographically eroding population. The latest data from Eurostat tells us that from all the member states of the European Union, Portugal is the one whose average age increases the fastest.

The average age of the Portuguese, which is 43.1 years old, is surpassed, in the European Union, only by the numbers of Germany and Italy (46 and 46.3 years). The median age, 42.6 years, ranks fifth amongst the 27 member states. Since 2012, the Portuguese have aged an average of 4.7 years. In the same period, Spaniards aged 4.1 years.

The number of live births contrasts with the trend of our average age: with 83,915 births and 124,618 deaths passed, we started having less 40,703 Portuguese people in 2022. It has been a recurring situation that has led to a 2.1% reduction of our population since 2011. The Census now counts 10,343,066 Portuguese; 12,9% below 14 years old and 23,4% above 65 years old. The average life expectancy is 84.3 years.

The study “The voting bases in the 2022 legislative elections”, written by the political sociologists Pedro Magalhães and João Cancela, provides us with an interesting perspective on the ramifications of this issue. The study allows us to understand that the senior population of our country is the one that most enjoys the universal right to vote. So much so that the Socialist Party, elected by an absolute majority and represented by 120 of a total of 230 members of the House of Representatives, got more than 51% of its votes from voters above 54 years old and 27% of them from voters below 25.

Similarly, PORDATA tells us that Portugal's abstention rate has reached a total 48.6%: about 42% of Portuguese residents and 88.6% of Portuguese emigrants did not vote. In the mainland, more than 33% of voters were 54 or older. These constitute about half of the votes in the Political Party that took office in the Portuguese Parliament: 1,2 million.

By taking on the viewpoint of the "Soy mayor, NO idiota" movement, one can, perhaps, question in what is the degree of quality in which the demographic layer, with the greatest influence in the latest elections, lives.

On that note, we should perhaps inspect the degree of digital literacy of our elders, as well as the hardships they come across in the efforts undertaken towards their greater inclusion.

In an article published in April of 2022, Portal da Queixa tells us about the fact that only 8% of people over 65 use this platform to expose their complaints and further adds that “ (…) this does not mean that they are well enough informed (…) to understand scamming attempts” . This is the reality of those who came across the digital world in their middle-age. Portal da Queixa also says that Portugal ranks third amongst the EU countries with the highest number of elderly people without any kind of access to the Internet; amongst those who have access, only 44% are between 65 and 74 years old.

What In regards to the real world, do our seniors live? Or do they survive?

On the 20th of February, 2023, World Day of Social Justice, the European Sociological Association (ESA) issued a warning according to which Portugal is the 8th country in the European Union with the highest poverty and social exclusion risks and that over 20% of the population is in a situation of social and economic vulnerability. The ESA tells us that “amongst the most vulnerable are families with children, the elders who have no family and the unemployed (…)” . These elders, 44,500 people, according to the Census, live in situations of isolation or extreme vulnerability - a situation aggravated because of the pandemic and inflation.

Alone or forsaken?

Upon knowing that our elders are illiterate in the digital world and isolated in the real world, we can ask to what degree and how severely there are cases that alert us to their desertion by individuals connecting them to social life, namely the family. It is at the core of this social nucleus that one can systematically find cases of complete renunciation of elderly citizens by their own peers.

Examples of this are the accounts provided by the São João and Santa Maria Hospitals in December 2022. In these, 83 elders reported to have spent Christmas alone in hospital beds, because they did not have anyone to shelter them or anywhere to go.

Abandonment of violence? Between bad and worst!

Ironically, digital illiteracy, economic depletion, declining pensions, rising inflation, abandonment normalization and the recurrence of desertion are not the greatest threats to our elderly, if we look at their situation from an analytical viewpoint. The reason for this is simple.

In an almost simultaneous release to the reports of the Hospitals of São João and Santa Maria, the University of Trás-os-Montes and Alto Douro enlightened us about the reality experienced by the elderly in 6 retirement homes in Viseu. In the study “Bullying in Institutional Context of Elderly People”, researcher Ana Catarina Reis gathered data that allowed her to conclude that the employees of the retirement homes of this region constantly exhibit aggressive behaviors towards residents. There is a 100% incidence of verbal abuse and a 33% incidence of physical abuse.

This data exposes a reality of passive disengagement towards our elderly. Worse than that: they unravel contexts of active aggression towards our most fragile members.

What now?

Knowing what we know now, we must consider the speed in which technology changes the areas of social and economic services, as well as the reality itself: it is very likely that the Portuguese society is on the verge of a reality of social exclusion. In Spain, Carlos San Juan cried “Soy mayor, NO idiota”. In Portugal, it is still to be seen what the present holds for those who voted for our future.


1European Union Statistical Database

2Database of Contemporary Portugal

3Online Platform created to submit customer complaints


Documento de Firma de La Actualización Del Protocolo Estratégico Para Reforzar El Compromiso Social Y Sostenible de La Banca. 2022.

Euronews. 2022. “‘I’m Old, Not Stupid’: Spain’s Elderly Criticise Online Banking.” January 26, 2022.

Fernandez, Mário. 2022. “‘Soy Viejo, Pero No Idiota’: El Valenciano Carlos Pide Que Los Bancos Atiendan En Persona a Los Mayores.” El Español. January 18, 2022.

Press, Europa. 2022. “‘Me Siento Apartado Por Los Bancos’: Un Ciudadano de 78 Años Recoge 100.000 Firmas Para Que Le Atiendan Presencialmente.” January 13, 2022.

1 Natália Faria. “Portugal está a envelhecer a um ritmo mais acelerado que os restantes países europeus”. Público, Fevereiro 22, 2022.

2 Magalhães, Pedro. “Bases sociais dos votos nas legislativas de 2022., Fevereiro 17, 2022.

3 PORDATA, “Taxa de abstenção nas eleições para a Assembleia da República: total, residentes em Portugal e residentes no estrangeiro”. Participação eleitoral. Última modificação em 23 de Março de 2022.

4 Portal da Queixa, “A literacia digital está a chegar aos mais idosos?”. Direitos do consumidor. Última modificação em 11 de Abril de 2022.

5 “No Dia Mundial da Justiça Social, tom é de preocupação com o futuro”. Sic Notícias Fevereiro 20, 2023.

6 Inês Dias. “Falta de apoios sociais e ‘esquecimento’ das famílias deixa idosos abandonados”. Diário de Notícias. Dezembro 24, 2022.

7 “Práticas de ‘bullying’ entre idosos em lares aumentam no Natal”. Diário de Notícias / Lusa. Dezembro 21, 2022.

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