Guiding principles for the project
The consortium partners have agreed on common guiding principles that bring together the diverse perspectives, foci of research and activity as well as research and practice interests of this interdisciplinary joint project. They comprise the following three aspects:
1. Focus on the setting “assisted living facilities with integrated care services”
In its first step (preparation and implementation phase), the project is primarily aimed at assisted living arrangements, namely those with an integrated care setting. In a further step (transfer phase from spring of 2024), inpatient care facilities will be successively integrated. There are two lines of reasoning for this strategic orientation:
Firstly, this population consists predominantly of private residents in old age, who are diverse in terms of their health status, care needs, income and education status, and level of digitalization. According to a 2018 study (Kremer-Preiß et al., 2019), 85% of residents are living alone and a large majority (57%) is older than 80 years. More than a third require care and about a tenth have a type of dementia. What they have in common are their motives for moving into such an institutionalized form of housing: the need for security of care and the opportunities for community participation (Kremer-Preiß, 2018).
This is linked to the second argument: Assisted living arrangements have a special connection to the local community and the neighborhood and socio-spatial, networked and participatory approaches are a relevant component of their facility concepts, giving rise to a local community of responsibility (Kremer-Preiß, 2018).
Therefore, this particular living arrangement and its residents offer a suitable context for the joint project. They comprise a heterogeneous target group of older people with low overall levels of digitalization, although there may be major interpersonal differences - which in turn can be conducive to the implementation and establishment of digital educational offers, particularly peer-to-peer activities and informal learning groups. Likewise, existing community activities can be used for research on educational theory and practice in the domain of social participation and integration into the social space (e.g. for the promotion of digital neighborhoods and care communities).
2. Basic research on education in old age
The theoretical research focus of the joint project is on empirical educational research, referencing theories and concepts from gerontology, educational science and media pedagogy. The research is guided by fundamental questions about the possibilities and limits of (digital) educational processes and (digital) educational formats of older and old people, such as: What are the relationships and repercussions regarding the educational, media and technology biographies, the identity work and the lifeworld? Are interdependences and qualifications specific to age, cohort, gender or resources?
Another research focus covers geragogical and educational-practical research questions. Among other things, informal and non-formal digital educational formats for persons of advanced age are developed and designed. The emphasis is on learning-theoretical questions concerning the acquisition of media skills, digital education and digital sovereignty. Moreover, conceptual questions concerning learning models and educational portals (digital platforms) for older people are addressed. To this end, critical reflections e.g. on the concept of competence are included (cf. Wanka & Gallistl, 2020).
3. Differentiated image of very old age with emphasis on social participation
In the joint project, the basic principle of a differentiated image of very old age should also be considered in relation to digitization. Two narratives can be cited for this purpose:
Firstly, the concept of social participation is to be developed further. In public discourse, participation in relation to digitization in old age is mostly discussed in terms of "taking part". The aspect of "sharing" (cf. Zippert, 2017), on the other hand, is rarely explicitly mentioned. This also includes mental and spiritual potentials of vulnerable older people which can be understood as their contribution to human capital (Kruse, 2017).
Therefore, the project is not only concerned with providing digital access and digital skills for (vulnerable) people in old age, enabling them to remain independent for longer and to participate in social life (again). Beyond that, it will be investigated to what extent this target group can experience a reciprocity of taking (part) and giving (back) and thus of "shared responsibility" (Kruse, 2017) through digitization. What is the contribution of digital educational processes to the participation of older and sometimes vulnerable citizens in the social space, to help shape it and to take care of and share responsibility for others, for the community and the society? Research would be guided by questions about possible medium- and long-term effects of social partaking and sharing on general self-efficacy, obsolescence, expectations for the future, self-perception of aging, and well-being.
Secondly, a differentiated image of old age requires that older people who do not want to or cannot use digital applications or who deliberately refuse to participate digitally should not be stigmatised as being deficient. Digitization with its social implications and ethical principles, e.g. self-determination and social justice, must be critically reflected upon in the course of the project. Therefore, one of the guiding ethical research questions for participatory processes is the limitation or avoidance of social inequalities and social exclusion (e.g. between so-called "onliners" and "offliners") in assisted living arrangements and care facilities that may arise from digital services developed in the course of the project.
Kremer-Preiß, U., Mehnert, T. & Klemm, B. (2019). Betreutes Seniorenwohnen: Entwicklungsstand und Anforderungen an eine zukunftsgerechte Weiterentwicklung. Ergebnisse einer empirischen Studie (ProAlter PraxisWissen). Heidelberg: medhochzwei.
Kremer-Preiß, U. (2018). Betreutes Wohnen – Anforderungen und Wege für eine zukunftsgerechte Weiterentwicklung. Fachtagung „Betreute Wohnkonzepte im Quartier“ am 16. Mai 2018, Stuttgart.
Kruse, A. (2017). Lebensphase „hohes Alter“. Reife und Verletzlichkeit. Berlin: Springer.
Wanka, A. und Gallistl, V. (2020): Ältere Menschen und Digitalisierung aus der Sicht der kritischen Gerontologie. Expertise zum Achten Altersbericht der Bundesregierung. In: C. Hagen, C. Endter & F. Berner (Hrsg.). Berlin: Deutsches Zentrum für Altersfragen.
Zippert, T. (2017). Was ändert die zunehmende Digitalisierung und Virtualisierung an einem christlichen Verständnis des Sozialen? In: T. Hagemann (Hrsg.). Gestaltung des Sozial- und Gesundheitswesens im Zeitalter von Digitalisierung und technischer Assistenz (S.137-154). Baden-Baden: Nomos.