22 February 2019

Can digital technologies increase quality of eldercare?

Welfare technology

Anthropologists will lead a new research project that examines the use of welfare technology in eldercare.

Anthropologists Nete Schwennesen and Line Hillersdal are leading a new research project that examines the use of welfare technology in eldercare.

The project draws on ethnographic fieldwork in municipalities and companies and will explore the ways in which data and technologies are produced and processed in encounters between elderly people, health professionals, algorithms, and digital devices, and how these data and technologies come to mediate new care relationships in elder care.

The objective is to use these insights to better understand the growing digitization of welfare services in Denmark, and how it affects the relation between the Danish welfare state and its elderly citizens in the 21st century.

- There are currently made massive investments in the development of new welfare technologies in eldercare, and the hope is to achieve greater efficiency and better quality in a sector that is under pressure. But for now we do not know particularly much about how this development affects the elderly people, eldercare, and professional practice at all. What notions of aging is embedded in the technologies? What does it mean for elderly citizens that care is increasingly mediated by algorithms and technology? Nete Schwennesen, associate professor at the Department of Anthropology, says.

- The development has also meant that knowledge about elderly people in the shape of data is still increasingly produced and circulated in society and across sectors in the welfare state. What happens to this knowledge, where does it go, and what type of ethical and social questions does it raise? These are some of the questions that we will look into, she says.

The project runs until the end of 2023 and is developed in collaboration with elderly citizens, practicians, and patient associations. The research is funded by The Velux Foundations and Nordea-fonden and is anchored at Center For Healthy Aging, University of Copenhagen.