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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