Domesticating Telecare into the Everyday life of Older people

Emma-Reetta Koivunen, Research Fellow at CIRCLE, University of Leeds

Dr. Emma-Reetta Koivunen from the AKTIVE project’s Social Research Team at CIRCLE University of Leeds is presenting initial research findings at the British Sociological Association Annual Conference in London in April 2013. The poster presentation discusses telecare use of older people using theory on ‘Domestication of Technology’.

Research methods
The aim of the AKTIVE project’s Everyday Life Analysis of telecare use is to understand experiences, barriers and facilitators for older people using telecare and those are involved in their care. The Social Research Team has recruited 65 research participants who use telecare for falls or because of memory problems. Each of the research participants will be interviewed every 6 to 8 weeks over a year. This approach gives the researchers the opportunity to get to know the research participants, observe their everyday lives and note any changes in their health or living situation. In addition to the interviews with the research participants, members of the caring networks supporting these telecare users will also be interviewed wherever possible. This provides an opportunity to examine the impact of telecare on unpaid carers (spouses, adult children and friends) and paid home care workers. Research participants are also asked to take photographs and write a diary.

The research questions examined in the poster are:

How is telecare used by older people who are susceptible to falls or have memory problems, and those in their caring networks?
What are the barriers to telecare adoption and use?
Using domestication of technology to analyse telecare use
Domestication of technology explores what users do with technologies once in the home (Haddon 2006). ‘Domestication’ describes how the uses of technology change and how they are (or are not) incorporated into the routines of daily life (Silverstone 1992). The theory breaks down the ‘biography’ of a technology to four stages to examine how the new technology becomes a part of routines of daily life. Domestication of technology was developed for analysing media technologies in the household, for example televisions or computers. For analysing use of telecare, linking it to mobile phone use (e.g. Cawley & Hynes 2006) will also be beneficial. Both these items are worn by users and used to communicate with others. Our research into the symbolic meanings of telecare continues.
Initial findings about telecare use
Telecare is often arranged for an older person initiated by health or social care professionals, or family carers. This can lead to a feeling of having little control over the technology, and a reluctance to use the equipment, limiting its potential benefits.
Telecare equipment is personal to the user and links them to their carers and a monitoring centre. The technologies can provide safety and support, but also have implications for loss of privacy and control.
Telecare equipment is sometimes seen by the older people using it as a symbol of ageing and vulnerability.
Many research participants use telecare selectively, based on their own personal perceptions of risk.
Telecare can have an impact on relationships, such as formalising caring arrangements or removing sources of interpersonal conflict.
What are we doing now
The Social Research Team will continue collecting data about telecare use and analysing the findings. Because of the longitudinal nature of the data collection, we are overlapping data collection and analysis. This approach enables us to improve data collection methods if we realise there are areas we are not exploring fully.
We will be presenting research findings in various conferences and events over the next year.

Cawley, A & Hynes D, (2010) ‘Evolving mobile communication practices’, Aslip Proceedings Special Issue, 62 (1): 29-65.
Haddon, L. (2006) ‘The contribution of domestication research to in-home computing and media consumption’, The Information Society, 22(4): 195-203.
Silverstone, R., Hirsch, E., and Morley, D. (1992) ‘Information and communication technologies and the moral economy of the household’, pp 15-31 in R. Silverstone and E. Hirsch, eds. Consuming Technologies. London: Routledge.

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