EQualCare Policy Report Germany : Alone but connected? Digital (in)equalities in care work and generational relationships among older people living alone

  • The policy review is part of the project EQualCare: Alone but connected? Digital (in)equalities in care work and generational relationships among older people living alone, a three-year international project involving four countries: Finland, Germany, Latvia and Sweden. EQualCare interrogates inequalities by gender, cultural and socio-economic background between countries, with their different demographics and policy backgrounds. As a first step into empirical analysis, the policy review aims to set the stage for a better understanding of, and policy development on, the intersections of digitalisation with intergenerational care work and care relationships of older people living alone in Germany. The policy review follows a critical approach, in which the problems policy documents address are not considered objective entities, but rather discursively produced knowledge that renders visible some parts of the problem which is to be solved as other possible perspectives are simultaneously excluded. Twenty publicly available documents were studied to analyse the processes in which definitions of care work and digital (in)equalities are circulated, translated and negotiated between the different levels of national government, regional governments and municipalities as well as other agencies in Germany. The policy review consists of two parts: a background chapter providing information on the social structure of Germany, including the historical development of Germany after the Second World War, its political structure, information on the demographic situation with a focus on the 60+ age group, and the income of this age group. In addition, the background presents the structure of work and welfare, the organisation of care for old people, and the state of digitalisation in Germany. The analysis chapter includes a description of the method used as well as an overview of the documents chosen and analysed. The focus of this chapter is on the analysis of official documents that deal with the interplay of living alone in old age, care, and digitalisation. The analysis identified four themes: firstly, ageing is framed largely as a challenge to society, whereas digitalisation is framed as a potential way to tackle social challenges, such as an ageing society. Secondly, challenges of ageing, such as need of care, are set at the individual level, requiring people to organise their care within their own families and immediate social networks, with state support following a principle of subsidiarity. Thirdly, voluntary peer support provides the basis for addressing digital support needs and strategies. Publications by lobby organisations highlight the important work done by voluntary peer support for digital training and the benefits this approach has; they also draw attention to the over-reliance on this form of unpaid support and call for an increase in professional support in ensuring all older people are supported in digital life. Fourthly, ageing as a hinderance to participation in digital life is seen as an interim challenge among younger old people already online. In summary, the analysis shows that the connection between ageing and digitalisation remains a marginal topic in current politics. The focus on older people merely as a potential group at risk of being left behind implies a deficit perspective on ageing and a homogenising of a large and diverse age group. Lessons learnt from the pandemic should not be interpreted in a one-sided way, by merely acknowledging the increasing number of (older) people moving online, but by acknowledging intersecting inequalities that mitigate social participation.

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Author:Rafaela WernyORCiDGND, Marie Reich, Miranda LeontowitschORCiDGND, Frank OswaldORCiDGND
Publisher:Frankfurter Forum für interdisziplinäre Alternsforschung, Goethe-Universität
Place of publication:Frankfurt am Main
Document Type:Book
Date of Publication (online):2022/09/23
Date of first Publication:2022/09/23
Publishing Institution:Universitätsbibliothek Johann Christian Senckenberg
Release Date:2022/10/24
Tag:ageing; care; digitalisation; living alone; policy review
Page Number:40
Gefördert vom Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung
Dewey Decimal Classification:3 Sozialwissenschaften / 30 Sozialwissenschaften, Soziologie / 300 Sozialwissenschaften
Licence (German):License LogoCreative Commons - Namensnennung-Keine Bearbeitung