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Who is Telecaring Whom? The Total Social Organisation of Labour in the context of an EU Telecare Project

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Rob WilsonORCiD, Dr Susan Baines, Professor Mike Martin, Dr Gregory Maniatopoulos, Dr Paul Richter, Professor Ian McLoughlin


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This paper is about innovations in care for older people in the context of a telecare system developed as part of a European Framework project. The project known as Older people’s e-services at home (OLDES). OLDES was funded under Call 6 within the IST priority Ambient Assisted Living (AAL) for the Ageing Society. Projects launched under this call are intended ‘to facilitate life conditions of the elderly generation’. The OLDES project partners are developing low cost, easy to use telecare technologies offering entertainment services and health care for older people in their homes. There are two aspects: a feature called ‘tele-accompany’ involving a ‘digital companion’ to combat the isolation of older people living alone, and health monitoring consisting of sensors for vital functions and movement detection. These technologies are intended to help improve quality of life and reduce costs, and are currently being trialled in the Municipality of Bologna in the Italian region of Emila-Romagna. The last decade has seen numerous initiatives to transform care and health services through electronic government (e-government) initiatives at Central, Regional and local levels. More recently and increasingly, the emphasis has been multi-agency and partnership oriented developments involving statutory and public agencies, the voluntary and charitable sector and commercial suppliers. OLDES falls into this category of development, which presents particular challenges in the areas of governance, trust, and the distribution of tasks and responsibilities for care. In this paper we consider some of the new affordances or interconnections presented by tele-care technologies, and examine implications for health and care professionals, carers (paid and unpaid) and older people. We propose that Glucksmann's framework of the Total Social Organisation of Labour (TSOL) has potential as an explanatory tool for telecare interventions within a mixed economy of care. To illustrate this perspective we focus in particular upon two sets of users who will be affected by, and in turn affect, the development and implementation of OLDES. They are the employees of a contact centre who currently support isolated older people in Bologna with over the telephone, and the local voluntary associations who have become significant participants in OLDES by meditating between the project’s technical developers and older people.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Wilson R, Baines S, Martin M, Jacucci G, Maniatopoulos G, Richter P, McLoughlin I

Publication type: Conference Proceedings (inc. Abstract)

Publication status: Published

Conference Name: Transforming care: Provision, quality and inequalities in late life

Year of Conference: 2010