Pensioners have complained that cashless car parks are ageist as councils adopt app-only payment systems.
As many as 13 councils in England and Wales have gone completely cashless in car parks, and many more machines do not take coins, requiring a phone or bank card instead.
The move has left many older drivers unable to properly use the new format and some claim it is discriminatory.
Canterbury City Council rolled out a pay-by-phone service at some of its car parks in the city, as well as the nearby seaside towns of Herne Bay and Whitstable.
It means motorists have to use their mobiles to pay for stays via the RingGo app or over the phone rather than use a machine.
A number of council car parks, including the seaside stretch in Seasalter, are now cashless, with a controversial new fixed fee of £1.50 for weekdays and £3 for weekends between April and September that was introduced at the secluded spot this month.
‘Mobiles can be scary for older generation’
Sheila Miller, who coordinates an elderly swimming group in Seasalter, Kent, said the new charges and use of RingGo will deter the majority of members from visiting the coast.
The 74-year-old said: “It’s ageist and absolutely discriminatory against the elderly.
“We can’t plead poverty as we can afford cars and drive. It’s just that many of the elderly do not have a smartphone, or know how to use RingGo.
“You need to be able to register with RingGo or download the app – but many in my group have found this impossible, and some do not know what an app is.
“Putting in bank details on a mobile can be scary for the older generation as they are afraid of scams.”
Leo Whitlock, a spokesman for Canterbury City Council, said: “While we understand the fact the imposition of new parking charges is never popular, the money generated helps pay for the vital frontline services the council provides to those who desperately need our help.”
The council added that motorists without a mobile phone can call and pay before they leave home.
‘Cash is essential for the elderly’
Age UK warned the elderly face being excluded from society if they are cut off from cash in the shift to online banking and retail.
Their own research shows around 59 per cent of over-65s use a smartphone compared with more than 90 per cent of 16- to 54-year-olds.
Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK, said: “Cash is not only essential for older people but for us all in a world increasingly compelling us to manage our money digitally.
“Older people who use cash are finding it increasingly impossible to manage their money because more and more barriers are being put in their way.
“It’s time for the government to recognise how important banknotes and coins are to all our lives and treat the cash system as the essential piece of infrastructure it is – just like utilities, post and broadband.”