Social Technology for Eldercare in China: A Transdisciplinary Collaborative Research-Education Program

Using Social Technology to Improve Eldercare in China

This project supports student researchers as they apply a social technology approach to identify socially and culturally appropriate technological interventions for eldercare in China. Effective eldercare tools are needed to respond to growing caregiving demands worldwide.

Project Title

Social Technology for Eldercare in China: A Transdisciplinary Collaborative Research-Education Program

New culturally and socially appropriate technological approaches to caring for the frail and elderly in China identified in this study will be of relevance to eldercare worldwide, as other countries are facing similar issues and concerns regarding this rapidly expanding population.

Project Summary

There is increasing concern worldwide with the problem of aging as it relates to eldercare and the burden of eldercare on families, communities, and entire nations. This project seeks to develop a program of social technology for aging that supports engineering and social science student researchers as they identify socially and culturally appropriate technological solutions to improve care for frail and demented elderly populations in China. Anthropological methods are applied to ensure that new technologies developed by the project respond to the most pressing needs of caregivers and the elderly while maximizing utilization and ease of maintenance. Additional benefits of the project include influencing health care and social welfare policy, building demonstration projects, and initiating the generalization of those projects that have proved to be successful. The long-term aim of the project is to apply culturally adapted versions of these technologies internationally.

Different from typical international collaboration where faculty investigators design a study prior to student participation, this project is a student-led research model that prioritizes interdisciplinary students’ leadership roles in project design and implementation; offers faculty support, primarily in supplying background information, networking, and logistics resources; and enables students’ capacity in conducting collaborative empirical research in real-world settings.

Partner Affiliations in China

Chinese Ministry of Civil Affairs

Fudan University

 Jiangsu Industrial Technology Research Institute (JITRI)

Tsinghua University

Principal Investigators

  • A.K.

    Arthur Kleinman

    Esther and Sidney Rabb Professor of Anthropology, Harvard Faculty of Arts and Sciences; and Professor of Medical Anthropology and Psychiatry, Department of Global Health and Social Medicine, Harvard Medical School

  • H.C.

    Hongtu Chen

    Assistant Professor of Psychology, Department of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School; and Affiliate, Department of Global Health and Social Medicine, Harvard Medical School

  • Habbal

    Fawwaz Habbal

    Executive Dean for Education and Research, Senior Lecturer, Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences