Technology, care and a sense of home
: understanding older people’s domestication of Telecare

  • Gigliola Brintazzoli

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


Ageing in Place and Telecare solutions are being proposed by policymakers as solutions
to the ageing population and the increased demands for care as people live longer, often
with chronic health conditions. Research and policy tend to draw attention to the
economic benefits of Telecare for older people and society in general, with a much
smaller, but significant, body of qualitative research now addressing the more
experiential aspects of Telecare. This quasi-ethnographic study involved undertaking
semi-structured interviews, opportunistic conversations and observations of sixteen
older Telecare users over a period of six months and has sought to understand the
process by which older people came to acquire and use Telecare and how their
experiences of using Telecare has changed the experience of, and meanings associated
with, ‘home’ and ‘care’, in particular. The study is situated at the intersection of studies
of care (particularly relational approaches) and studies of the relationship between
technology and users, specifically, domestication theory. My research questions were:
1) How do older people come to adopt Telecare in their homes? 2) How does Telecare
change the meanings and experiences of home for older people? and 3) How does
Telecare change the meanings and experiences of care for older people? Drawing on
domestication theory, I analysed how Telecare was appropriated, objectified,
incorporated and converted by older people in their own homes. My findings suggested
an incomplete ‘domestication’ of Telecare, linked both to feelings of ambivalence
towards this form of care which, despite its stated purpose as a tool to support
independence, can still come to be associated with frailty and vulnerability amongst
older people and the quest for independence embedded in Telecare. The research shows
that older people’s homes were modified, although not significantly disrupted, by the
introduction of Telecare. This is because their homes were already a site of care,
populated by formal and informal carers and by a plethora of assistive devices. Telecare
seemed to coexist, without particular tension, with previous forms of care. The study
showed that the extent to which, and the ways in which, the dichotomization between
care ‘in person’ and care ‘at a distance’ fails to capture older people’s experiences of
Telecare, the latter of which was experienced as part of a wider care network of
established and new formal and informal carers and technological devices. When it worked well, despite some ambivalence that seems to reflect concerns about growing
frailty and dependence, Telecare gave older people a sense of security and safety at
home, as well as new opportunities for face-to-face care with Telecare workers.
Date of AwardJun 2018
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Brighton
SupervisorFlis Henwood (Supervisor)

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