The potential implications and inequalities in the care of older people in a post-COVID world: An autoethnographic account
Keywords:COVID-19, ageing, healthcare smart homes, autonomy, healthcare
Healthcare smart homes have been positioned as a potential innovative solution to the current global ageing crisis and an alternative for the care of older people within a post-COVID-19 world. However, such innovations have emerged within a dominant discourse in which older people are framed and pathologized as societal burdens. This autoethnographic paper, based on my reflections and recent (but pre-pandemic) ethnographic fieldwork with older residents of healthcare smart homes, explores the potential changing landscapes of care and home that older people may experience in a post-COVID-19 world. Previously, these homes were associated with wellbeing, choice and autonomy, however, with the negative impacts of COVID-19 on care homes and the care sector, healthcare smart homes and digital-by-default care may become the prominent means for the future care of older people. I argue this may cause increases in the social, economic and geographical inequalities around access to smart healthcare technologies. Many of these inequalities are experienced more strongly by individuals from different intersectionalities including age, disabilities and class. Furthermore, potential feelings of autonomy experienced by older people using smart healthcare technologies may be reduced when a post-COVID-19 move to digital-by-default health and social care becomes a necessity rather than a choice.
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