Symposium 7: Temporal dimensions of digital technology in the long-term care of older people

Symposium convenors: Helena Hirvonen, University of Eastern Finland

Changes brought by ageing societies have raised the question of the need for health and social care policy reforms and shifts from state-sponsored to market-driven service systems across the globe. Formal provision of long-term care of older persons increasingly operates within a context shaped by neoliberal market conditions. Need for increasing efficiency, along with goals of user-centered and transparent service provision are encouraging service providers to take on new technological solutions. As a consequence, services for older persons are becoming increasingly reliant on digital platforms, tools and applications. This alters the work practices of care work as well as the daily life of older persons. Overall, the key question seems to be how to deliver high-quality yet cost effective and equally accessible services. Digitalization affects care and work, the means, process as well as the experiences of the different actors involved in the long-term care of older persons. In the middle of it all, time remains an essential resource for both those providing and those receiving care.
The symposium is relevant to the conference theme as it highlights the importance to understand the connections between temporality and digitalization, and how these mutually contribute to how care and care services manifest. The four papers address the intertwinement of digital and temporal based on the latest research on the topic. The aim of the symposium is to bring forth a compelling and critical discussion on how digitalization affects the perceptions, control over, negotiations, and the actual allocation of time in long-term care of older persons. The symposium discusses the phenomenon from a variety of viewpoints, with a primary focus on formal care work, and the perspectives of both care workers and service users.
The convenor of the symposium is a member of the Academy of Finland funded Centre of Excellence in Research of Ageing and Care, Research group ’New Technologies, Ageing and Care’ (PI Sakari Taipale).

Description of papers and their presenters:

  • Paper 1: Temporalities of digital care
Annette Kamp, Roskilde University (co-authored with: Sidsel Lond Grosen, Roskilde University; Agnete Meldgaard Hansen, Roskilde University.)

The paper explores how digitalization of care work that aims at supporting the paradigm of personalized, rehabilitative care, affects temporalities of care. ICT is assumed to imply acceleration, intensification and fragmentation of work. However, temporalities are shaped, constructed and juggled in daily practise. This ‘juggling of time’ in specific cultural and professional contexts is the point of departure for contextual development based on ethnographic study of the digital technologies in Danish Eldercare.

  • Paper 2: Sense of Belonging Disrupted – Care Work Gone Online
Antti Hämäläinen, University of Jyväskylä (co-authored with: Mia Tammelin, Jyväskylä University of Applied Sciences; Riitta Hänninen, University of Jyväskylä & Helena Hirvonen, University of Eastern Finland)

The paper is based on a study of digitalization in 24/7 residential care units, where mobile applications are increasingly used to organise workCare workers resort to digital application in efforts to ‘make time’ for care in a service environment that aims for efficient delivery of services. The paper points on the one hand to the risks of blurring of work-life interface as a consequence of growing use of digital platforms that reorganize the spatial and temporal spheres of care work. On the other hand, new opportunities to build a sense of community emerge through digitalisation.

  • Paper 3: Migration related vulnerabilities in the time of independent agency – Struggling with digitalised social welfare services in Finland.
Ulla Buchert, University of Helsinki

The paper discusses the transition from street-level to screen-level bureaucracies and the agency expected from the service users. The embracing of independent digital agency seems to drive people with intersecting vulnerabilities dependent on informal help, which may endanger their privacy, compromise realisation of their social rights and expose them to abuse.

  • Paper 4: Considering the ‘Ageist Factor’ in Designing Policy and Digital Technology for Older Adults
Ittay Mannheim, Tilburg University

The paper presents recommendations of a policy brief based on on-going research in ‘Euroageism’ Horizon 2020 ITN. Ageism is a potential barrier that affects use, adoption and design of digital technology and related policies. The paper highlights the importance of older adults’ involvement, consideration of their needs and desires, in development and implementation of (health related) digital technologies.


Eveline J.M. Wouters, Fontys University of Applied Science & Tilburg University

Virpi Timonen, Trinity College Dublin

Posted in Conference 2021, Symposia.