Technology, Sociability and Health (logo)Technology, Sociability and Health

The use of technology in social networks, in disability benefit, and working methods etc., has become considerably widespread in recent years and its use concerns the older population on several levels. The presence of ENSTB (Telecom Bretagne) in our network has contributed to the development of several areas of research, some of which are presented briefly below.

Internet and seniors

The need to forestall the emergence of a “digital divide” is frequently cited when referring in particular to older generations. It would seem, however, that this public group is turning to online services for leisure activities and in social relationships. The Internet is becoming a common denominator in social relations and a baseline for consumers and for knowledge acquisition. Consulting health care websites and using cost comparison search engines for goods and services empowers individuals : more choice means more informed decisions for themselves and for their relatives. Most activities linked to the Internet, from learning how to use the tool to putting this knowledge into practice, often involve interrelated projects that bring together various generations, or which are carried out by the retirees themselves. The elderly still use the Internet substantially less than other generations, but this this is due to inadequacies or maladjustment of the tool itself and the lack of government-funded learning schemes and mediators for the oldest and most deprived groups.

Telehealth and teleassistance for persons with disabilities

Research on the habits of individuals and their close circle of relatives, friends and neighbours focuses on the design and usage of technical devices, and their effects on the support and renewal of an individual’s interests and relationships with others. The reduced mobility of persons with disabilities often means new sociability requirements which may call for an integrated telecommunications project rather than teleassistance (the most popular solution). Home- and institution-based visual aids preserving the sociability of older persons give a new insight into user involvement and that of family and community mediators. Adapting the home to suit the needs of persons with disabilities means that special arrangements must be made for the new technical objects to be installed (domotics). This process involves a reorganisation of personal identity for both individuals and the people with whom they live. As these devices are becoming increasingly popular in private and public spaces, an analysis of the services needs to be carried out, both in terms of accessibility and the support in place for procurement, usage and training for users with disabilities.

New Technologies and Health

The introduction of new technologies in the field of medical and care practices is changing relationships and legitimacies both interprofessionally and with the user. For example, the increased prevalence of telehealth, shared medical records and so forth, is introducing new methods of care that could lead to either a closer, or a less personal relationship with patients. The state of the art, the categories of action taken by professionals, the ways of defining the patient and his/her relation to illness, the definition of the loci and timing of care are all being revised in the wake of these new technologies and the new working practices they entail. For the very elderly, these new forms of medical examination and health care organisation imply care services based on relational proximity to support the role of care-givers.