Care work is a mainstay of modern societies. The provision of care at the right time and the right place is crucial for the welfare and wellbeing of children, the elderly, the disabled, and individuals dealing with health issues. Because of the changing demographics, more and more American households will have both children and aging parents, as well as other individuals with various health conditions, who need care and support. The current model of care is not going to be able to provide this support because it is fragmented between various settings and providers such as nursing homes, hospitals, daycares, and senior- and childcare facilities. This fragmentation, in turn, gives rise to issues of transition and continuity of care, generating insurmountable financial and social costs. To overcome these issues, this project proposes 'the matrix of care' as a community-based, socially embedded, and interactive model of care using intelligent technologies based on a new understanding of care work. The proposed matrix will transform the landscape of the Future of Work in the provision of care and medical services.

As a first step in this direction, the investigators propose to think of care work not solely as what happens in professional settings, but more broadly as any activity that aims to improve and enrich the health, wellbeing, and quality of life of individuals, families, and communities, regardless of context. This includes, among other things, housekeeping (e.g. cleaning, cooking), shopping, emotional support, help with dressing and personal hygiene, eating, lifting, administrative tasks (e.g. paying bills, filing taxes), safely getting around, and doing laundry. The resulting matrix of care will span across scales (individual, household, organization, community, city) and various dimensions, including different settings of care delivery (homes, facilities, hospitals, etc.) for multiple generations (children, adults, older adults) in different environments (urban, rural, suburban). The investigators also propose to think of caregivers not solely in terms of paid professional workers but as anyone who is involved in the delivery of care. This would involve professional caregivers (nurses, doctors, therapists, coaches, etc.) but also immediate and extended family, neighbors, and other members of the community. On this basis, the project will pursue a multi-pronged approach with the following key components: (i) the training, promotion, and regulation of professional caregivers; (ii) institutional and government support for family and community care; (iii) the provision of skilled individuals who can act as integrators at the interface between cared-for individuals, their families, and various new technologies. Such technologies will include assistive robots sensing devices attached to individuals or distributed in the environments; domain- and condition-specific applications; transportation infrastructures; telehealth, telerehab, and telemedicine platforms; and cognitive augmentation systems such as games. The project will develop several case studies to be carried out in the city of Bloomington, Indiana, as a testbed for experimenting with the proposed matrix of care. The ultimate goal of this project is to develop the necessary research personnel, research infrastructure, and foundational work to expand the opportunities for studying future technology, future workers, and future work at the level of a FW-HTF full research proposal.

This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Division of Social and Economic Sciences (SES)
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Nancy Lutz
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Indiana University
United States
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