Accepted paper:

Resourceful ageing: creative assemblages as quiet dissent against the paternalistic stance


Louis Neven (Avans University of Applied Sciences)
Ivo Maathuis (Tilburg University)

Paper short abstract:

This study investigates the resourceful (technological) solutions older people produce to solve everyday life problems. Such solutions are often seen as deviant or dangerous by engineers or care workers. We should instead see resourcefulness as a means towards more autonomy, self-reliance and fun.

Paper long abstract:

While creativity and innovativeness is often seen as a positive trait for younger people, the use of everyday objects and technologies in unforeseen or creative ways by older people is often seen as a cause for concern. Such behavior is seen as erratic and dangerous by for instance engineers and care workers. Implicitly they adopt a paternalistic stance which allows them to decide what technologies are safe and useful for older people. To counter this stance and to improve our understanding of the creative ways in which older people solve problems in everyday life, we set out to investigate the resourcefulness of older people. The older participants were visited several times for semi-structured interviews and a tour of their home to discuss and photograph resourceful solutions. The older participants were also given an assignment to label artefacts which they used in everyday life, which they valued or used creatively. Our research shows that our older participants are very adept at creating (technological) solutions for everyday life problems, based on their own creativity and technological literacy. These solutions tended to be simple, cheap, easily understood and gave older adults a level of satisfaction and pride. While it is important to keep vulnerable older people safe, engineers and care workers who adopt a paternalistic stance tend to dissuade older people from solving their own problems, which reduces autonomy and makes people passive and reliant on external help. Enhancing their resourcefulness instead can lead to more autonomy, self-reliance and, if anything, fun.

panel E05
Assembly, silence and dissent in the design and use of gerontechnologies