Migration, ageing and digital kinning: the role of distant care support networks in aged care

Stream: Aged care services
Date: Wednesday, 11 September 2019
Time: 10.45 am – 12.25 pm


Abstract: In community and, more recently, residential aged care in Australia, there has been an increasing focus on providing person-centred care, with an emphasis on improving the wellbeing and quality of life of the older person, as defined by the older person. For the increasing numbers of older migrants in aged care, connection to often widely dispersed social networks is important to social connectedness and wellbeing in later life. In this paper, we highlight the role of communication technologies in maintaining support networks and identities across distance. Building on transnational families research and on anthropological notions of ‘kinning’, we propose that processes of distant support can be illuminated through the new concept of ‘digital kinning’. Data are drawn from a qualitative project conducted in Australia (2016-19) with over 150 older migrants (55+) born in nine countries comprising ethnographic interviews and observations to examine participants’ histories of migration, experiences of ageing, proximate and distant support networks and uses of technology. Select ethnographic examples illustrate the key dimensions and benefits of ‘digital kinning’ for older migrants in aged care including to support the access of older migrants to 1) essential sources of social connection and support, 2) maintenance of cultural identity, and 3) protection of social identity, including across distance. Their effectiveness is reliant on access to affordable and reliable digital communication tools. Although essential to the wellbeing of older migrants, distant support networks and the digital kinning practices that sustain them receive little attention from policy makers and health practitioners. This paper identifies ways in which organisations concerned with the care of older people can support practices of ‘digital kinning, such as including distant kin in healthcare plans, and prioritising digital inclusion initiatives, and the implications for the contemporary aged care policy context.


Loretta Baldassar (Presenter), University of Western Australia
Loretta Baldassar is Professor in Anthropology and Sociology at The University of Western Australia. She has published extensively on migration, with a particular focus on families and caregiving. Baldassar is Vice President of the ISA Migration Research Committee and regional editor for the journal Global Networks. She is co-Chief Investigator on ARC Discover Projects: Ageing and New Media (Wilding, La Trobe) and Youth Mobilities (Harris, Deakin, and Robertson, Western Sydney).

Raelene Wilding, La Trobe University
Raelene Wilding is Associate Professor, Sociology, at La Trobe University. Her research uses qualitative methods to explore the role of new technologies in the family and intimate lives of older adults from migrant, refugee and non-migrant backgrounds. Her most recent book is Families, Intimacy and Globalization (Palgrave, 2018).