MADISON, Wis. (11/30/10)--The U.S. population is aging, and seniors are the country’s fastest growing demographic, which has implications for credit unions, says the Michigan Credit Union League. The U.S. is experiencing a dramatic increase in the number of people who live to old age, according to the Administration on Aging, an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, (Michigan Monitor Nov. 29). This phenomenon is creating challenges for Americans of all ages as they cope with Social Security, health care, housing, employment and other national issues that are important to an aging population. The average credit union member is 47 years old, up from 40 in just the past two decades, according to Credit Union National Association (CUNA) research quoted by the league. Given that the average adult credit union member has moved beyond his or her prime borrowing years of 25 to 44, credit unions should take notice as they plan for the future, said the league. That’s not to say that members over the age of 44 won’t use credit union loan services, but the number of services or types of loans they use are limited and considerably lower than what members use during their prime-borrowing years, according to the league's 2010 Consumer Study. Members older than age 60 use fewer online services due to their habits and preference for personal service and traditional mail, the study found. However, although fewer credit union members age 60 and above used online banking (52%)--compared to members 25 to 44 years old (68%) and those 45 to 60 (73%)--more seniors (44%) used online bill pay than the younger groups (43% for 25 to 44 year olds and 39% for 45 to 60 year olds). The senior group has a higher percentage of retirement plans (16% for those 60 and older, compared to 7% for the 25 to 44 age group and 11% for the 45 to 60 demographic) and credit cards (57% compared to young borrowers age 25 to 44--28%-- and 40% for those age 45 to 60. That implies that at a certain age, borrowers rely more on their credit cards or home-equity loans than on their own income, since many of them are either retired or not working, the league noted. For the aging population of credit unions, it is important to focus on money-saving loan solutions since these borrowers are typically on fixed incomes, said the league. It is important to show them how they can save for retirement and end up with having more, and not less, over the years. However, for the long-term, it would be necessary for credit unions to seek a balance between keeping aging members and attracting young adults and children to their membership because the future for credit unions is youth and young adults, the league concluded.