China is powering towards becoming a society without physical cash perhaps faster than any other nation. The convenience of paying with an app on a smartphone or swipe of a plastic card is being so widely embraced in some cities that many businesses no longer accept banknotes or coins. A second stage of a pilot programme under way in the Jiangsu province city of Suzhou takes the process a step further, trialling a digital yuan that in a matter of years seems certain to do away with bulging pockets and purses full of change altogether. Without doubt such developments are proof of progress and welcomed by a lot of people, but consideration has to also be given to the elderly and others who are still reliant on hard currency. Digital payment systems are burgeoning worldwide, accelerated by the Covid-19 pandemic. But in mainland China, they have taken root to the point that it is difficult or even impossible to go about everyday life without turning to them, whether it is to use public transport or get a restaurant meal. The digital yuan moves the process into another realm, though, centralising transactions through the people’s bank of China and making each payment traceable. Using digital wallets in which to store funds in a similar way to existing commercial methods like Alipay and WeChat pay and generating a QR code that can be scanned when making payments, there are significant benefits over notes and coins. As China goes cashless, it’s the elderly who pay the price Accessing funds for payments is easier, doing away with the need for visiting cash machines and bank counters. For Beijing, money movement would be more visible, helping with policymaking. A major advantage is in tracking illicit flows of currency, better enabling prevention of money laundering and terrorist funding. There are privacy concerns that should be addressed, but importantly, efforts have to be made to ensure people unfamiliar with or unable to use technology are not left out. China has one of the world’s fastest-ageing populations, with the number of people aged 65 and over expected to reach 300 million by 2025. Mastering digital technology is increasingly becoming a key component of taking part in society, but it can sometimes be difficult for the elderly. Technology may prove too complex or challenging for those with physical impairments or particular health conditions, while lack of instruction, guidance, knowledge and confidence can also restrict use. There are also those who simply do not trust payment methods that do not involve physical money. Beijing has recognised the problem and issued a three-year plan for the public and private sectors to help familiarise and educate the elderly about technology. Traditional face-to-face services still have to be made available. Cash is a key part of China’s infrastructure; there has to be financial inclusion for all in society.