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TVcalls and reacquainting visits : video conferencing with long-term care residents



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A long-term care resident sits in front of a TV. With the push of a remote control button she instantly sees and visits with her children and grandchildren over 500 miles away. She last saw them on her 80th birthday, four years ago. She and her family are participants in a social action inquiry that explores video conferencing in order to understand the value of technology enhanced face-to-face interaction in a long-term care home. This research, designed as a compassionate response to the serious problems of isolation, loneliness, helplessness, and boredom in long-term care, set out to determine what video conferencing can mean to long-term care residents and to the people they connect with. The study queried possibilities for improving the quality of social interactions of residents in long-term care facilities with family members living at some considerable distance from them. It involved setup of technical equipment, then three residents in a long-term care facility in western Canada were introduced to the practice of video conferencing with their families. Each conferencing event was supported with volunteers for a three-four month exploration period. The research was intended to contribute to knowledge about learning in later life, to promote a way of increasing communication between the elderly and younger generations, and to address issues associated with elderly long-term care residents’ access to video conferencing technology. Data collected through memory logs, observations, and interviews indicates that all study participants, including residents, family, and volunteers, responded favourably to the video conferencing experience. This study supports the claims that video conferencing can increase the frequency of contact between long-term residents and family members, and that the quality of this contact is enhanced through the visual presence and engagement of participants, through use of video conferencing technology. The video conferencing enabled family members separated by distance and unable to visit frequently to take on a "regular visitor role" and for residents to go visiting. The visually enhanced communication / visits transformed the otherwise limited audio interaction of phone calls or no interaction into socially substantive experiences of connectedness, inclusion about which residents reported feeling excited and connected with something to look forward to. This suggests video conferencing could contribute to a good quality of life for residents. Future communications infrastructures should seriously consider inclusion strategies and availability of effective applications to long-term care residents.



Quality of Life, Family, Intergenerational Relationships, Video Conferencing, Lifelong Learning



Master of Continuing Education (M.C.Ed.)


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