Ageing in an increasingly smart world : an ethnography of ageing at home with smart and assistive devices

  • Rachel Sarah Creaney

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis (PhD)


With increasing desires to live at home for longer and have more control of one's healthcare, coupled with rises in smart technology use and affordability, the drive for healthcare smart homes (HSH) from certain policymakers and technologists, particularly in rural communities, has heightened. These digitalised homes aim to enable older people to live independently at home for longer and potentially improve their wellbeing through the use of smart and assistive technologies. Much of the existing literature on the impacts of HSH living is from: healthcare or technocentric domains; shorter term or 'laboratory' settings with individual residents rather than more in-depth research including the wider networks. Furthermore, there is increasing development of DIY versions of HSH (i.e. portable smart and assistive devices gathered by the resident and their wider caring networks to be used in their homes, rather than a tailor-made HSH). Thus, in this thesis I use multiple ethnographic methods (visual, traditional and autoethnographic methods) to explore the longer-term experiences of five older people, and their wider caring networks, living within DIY HSH. I draw on theories and concepts relating to bricolage, dramaturgy, and simulations to explore the experiences of a sense of home, identity formation and future planning within DIY HSH living. I argue there are multiple (and potentially competing) experiences of DIY HSH living concerning sense of home, identity and envisioning the future. This range of experiences is connected to various levels and types of access to devices and technical support (what I term 'vertical noir hierarchies'), and the experiences and motivations of the wider caring networks. Ultimately, through use of multi-modal ethnographic methods and a new conceptual framework, I highlight that a singular experience of DIY HSH living is impossible. This is illustrated through understanding the (often conflicting) experiences of both older DIY HSH residents and their wider caring networks, and their types and levels of access to DIY HSH devices.
Date of Award15 Jun 2022
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of St Andrews
SupervisorLouise Reid (Supervisor)

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