The tide is turning, but there are still a few stragglers -- throwbacks to the Great Depression who are wary of banks and today's bankingtechnologies.
Many Carroll seniors avoid automated teller machines, or ATMs, and some do not use direct deposit -- where Social Security and pension checks are deposited directly from the government and former employers into a bank account.
"I know we should have direct deposit. I've known it for years," said Betty L. Limstrom, 63. "And guess what? I can't bring myself to do it.
"It has to do with my age and the circumstances of my birth," said Limstrom, who lives outside Westminster. "I came along at thetail end of the Depression. I grew up in a very frugal family.
"When I first started working we got paid in cash -- we got a little brown envelope at the end of the week," she said. "We worked for our money, and we had it in our hands."
About half of all people receiving Social Security checks use direct deposit, said Dana V. Edwards, aspokesman for the Social Security Administration's Mid-Atlantic region.
"We encourage people to sign up for direct deposit because of the convenience and the safety factor," Edwards said. And, he said, it saves the government money for postage and check-printing fees.
Banks also encourage customers to use direct deposit, said Doreen L. Capece, branch manager for Union National Bank in Westminster.
"There really is no reason not to do it," Capece said. "The error rate is very small. Mail may get mis-routed, get put in the wrong mailboxes.
"Electronic transactions are also cheaper to perform than paper transactions," she said.
Seniors who are just beginning to receiveSocial Security are arranging to use direct deposit from the start, Capece said.
"As time goes by, you are seeing a lot more acceptance," she said. "The trend is definitely there."
Limstrom remains a hold-out. In addition to receiving her Social Security check in the mail, the retired schoolteacher does not use ATMs, and she and her husband use credit cards only when traveling, she said.
"I have nevergotten involved with any of the newer machines," she said. "I don't trust machines. Machines are only as good as the people who work them."
Bob W. Pepperney, a 69-year-old Sykesville resident, said he has an ATM card but prefers to do his banking in person.
"I'd just as soon go into the bank," Pepperney said. "I go out of my way sometimes because the people are friendly in there. And they seem to know your face, if they don't know your name."
For some seniors, banking is a social outting, said Dominic F. Pagio, vice president of branch administration and marketing for Union National Bank in Westminster.
"They actually enjoy getting out and coming down and saying hello,and enjoy having someone recognize them," he said.
"But the majority of them have really turned the corner," Pagio said. "The majorityrealize that direct deposit is safer, it's guaranteed and they don'thave to get out of the house."
Limstrom does not avoid the banks completely, she said.
"I'm not the mattress type," she said. "I have a checking and a savings account."
Depression-era seniors who save their money at home are dying out, said Lester F. Stem, 75, of Westminster.
"Most of the people that I know do use direct deposit and do use the machines," he said. "It's never safe to carry a lot of money these days.
"(Robbers) wait at the door for you, and first thing you know, you don't have (the money) anymore," Stem said. "There's no need to carry it, because it's so easy to get it today."
Seniors must be careful about when and where they do their banking, saidTfc. James S. Emerick of the state police barracks in Westminster.
"Seniors need to make a more conscious effort to keep up with the new tricks the robbers are pulling," he said. "They need to alternate the times and days they go to the bank.
"They should go with friends -- numbers are safety," he said. "Another thing they can do is disperse their valuables on their body if they are going out. Don't carry it all in one place."
Olin M. Broadfoot, a 69-year-old Finksburgresident, suggested another tip: Do not use ATMs at night, he said.
"Older people particularly should never go to one of these cash machines after dark," Broadfoot said. And, he said, "I don't go to (an ATM) in an isolated spot, even in daylight."
Broadfoot has used ATMs since they have been available, he said.
"I said, 'Man, that looks like a great deal,' " Broadfoot said. "Why should I stand in lineif I can do it electronically?
"I happen to believe in taking advantage of all the electronic banking and all the services the banks offer," he said. "I used to spend half my lunch hour in line. You're just wasting time."
Direct deposit saves seniors the hassle of recovering a Social Security or pension check that gets lost in the mail or stolen from the mailbox, Emerick said.
"A lot of them can't handle the red tape and the aggravation," he said. "They are on fixed incomes, and if they take a loss, it's very dramatic. Direct deposit isthe best thing in the world for them."
But many seniors continue to go "the old way of banking," Emerick said.
"They want to actually see the cash," he said. "They want to hold the money in their hands and count it and divide it into piles."
Changing seniors' banking habits is a matter of helping them trust the machines, Pagio said.
"When they put their card in, we need to convince them that it's very secure," he said. "When they take their money out or deposit it, they get a receipt for it and there is a camera there. It's a lot more trustworthy than some people believe."
But senior citizens are not always easy to persuade, Pagio said.
"Logically, the older onesare going to be more difficult to change," he said. "Their norms areall set. They keep life relatively simple with cash.
"Some peoplehave to see the greenbacks to really believe they got paid," Pagio said.
But, he said, "We're moving toward a society where we won't be using as many greenbacks as we used to. We're moving toward a debit-card society."