Social connectivity in later life is often promoted in government discourses: the ‘active ager’ participates in community activities and maintains strong social networks. Among care home residents who have reduced control over the spatiotemporal arrangement of their communications, the ideal of the socially and digitally connected ager warrants collaborative reflection.
Studies have shown that Information and Communication Technology (ICT) use in care homes can support residents to maintain and develop social connections. Yet, communication technologies can also exasperate feelings of exclusion and ICT interventions in care homes often do not have lasting effects.
In this pilot project, I explore experiences of social and digital connectivity among 75+-year-olds living in long-term residential care. My research combines participant observation with qualitative interviews to examine the social production of physical, virtual and interactive spaces. In doing so, I aim to develop understanding on the material, digital and institutional factors that enable or disenable social and communicative agency. The research intends to arrive at some practical recommendations that would support participants to gain more control over the ways they want (and don’t want) to be socially connected. In addition, findings are expected to diversify and complexify normativities of social connectivity in later life.
Keywords: long-term residential care; social connectivity; digital inclusion; social production of space.
Sarah Wagner, Open University of Catalonia
Mireia Fernández-Ardèvol, Open University of Catalonia
Akiko Ogawa, Nagoya University