Resourceful Ageing: Countering the Paternalistic Stance By Viewing Older People As Innovators

Friday, 20 July 2018: 17:45
Oral Presentation
Louis NEVEN, Avans University of Applied Science, Netherlands
Ivo MAATHUIS, Avans University of Applied Sciences, Netherlands
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 cause for concern. Such behavior is deemed erratic and dangerous by for instance designers and care workers as they fear that such deviant use may lead to harm. Implicitly they adopt a paternalistic stance which allows them, and not the older people, to decide what technologies are safe and useful for older people. To counter this way of viewing older people and to improve our understanding of the ways in which older people solve problems in everyday life, we set out to investigate the resourcefulness of older people. In conjunction with a team of designers and engineers who were keen to break through the paternalistic stance we adopted a methodology which allowed in-depth analysis of the resourceful ways in which older people use everyday objects to (continue to) do want they want to do. The older participants were visited several times for a semi-structured interview and a tour of their home to discuss and photograph resourceful solutions. In between visits, the older participants were 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 have their own technological literacy which allows them to craft creative solutions for everyday life problems. While it certainly is important to keep vulnerable older people safe, adopting the paternalistic stance and dissuading older people from solving their own problems is not wise. It reduces their autonomy, makes them passive and reliant on external help. Enhancing their resourcefulness in a safe way can lead to more autonomy and self-reliance and – we found – is often more fun.