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Making visible the invisible: understanding the nuances of computer-supported cooperative work on informal elderly caregiving in Southern Cone families


The design of computer-supported caregiving technology has generally not acknowledged the complexity and heterogeneity of the informal care provision to older adults. For instance, most Latin American older adults have not been capable to broadly embrace digital technology to interact with their family members. This attitude, complemented with a high commitment derived from a strong filial obligation, burdens those family members that are most engaged in caring for their older adults, indirectly producing tension within the family network. In order to better understand this scenario in Southern Cone families (i.e., a particular region within Latin America comprising Chile, Argentina, and Uruguay), we conducted a localized multi-method study involving shadowing, contextual inquiry, and semi-structured interviews with informal elderly caregivers. Our study results highlight design implications and structure the elderly caregiving ecosystem, providing means to support invisible work and its articulation in this highly collaborative scenario. In particular, (1) we define a set of roles that characterize the viewpoints and concerns of the different family members regarding informal elderly caregiving, and therefore sustain the articulation of the process; (2) we draft the main concerns of the involved stakeholders in the form of a caregiving matrix, which can be used for visualizing the current fulfillment of duties within the family network; and (3) we describe a set of typical caregiving scenarios aimed to inform the design of contextualized strategies for mediating the social interaction space of intergenerational families through computer-supported technology. By addressing the identified implications, HCI and CSCW researchers, designers, and practitioners would be able to better understand the complexity of informal elderly caregiving in the South of Latin America, and therefore identify plausible solutions that would improve user experience and the effectiveness of computer-supported mediation strategies this context.

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This work has been partially funded by FONDECYT Regular (CONICYT Chile) under grant #1191516.

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Correspondence to Francisco J. Gutierrez.

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The study design has been approved on ethical grounds by the Research Ethics Board of the Faculty of Physical and Mathematical Sciences of the University of Chile.

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This manuscript corresponds to a significant extension of the article “It takes at least two to tango: Understanding the cooperative nature of elderly caregiving in Latin America,” published by the same authors in: Proceedings of the ACM Conference on Computer Supported Cooperative Work and Social Computing (CSCW’17). ACM Press, pp. 1618–1630. Regarding the new material presented in this extension, we now present new empirical findings in subsection: 4.5 Structuring the informal elderly caregiving process. As such, this serves as ground for extending section 5 (Discussion) and framing new material in section 6 (Insights into Technology Design), in the form of new layers of analysis and reusable design artifacts.

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Gutierrez, F.J., Ochoa, S.F. Making visible the invisible: understanding the nuances of computer-supported cooperative work on informal elderly caregiving in Southern Cone families. Pers Ubiquit Comput 25, 437–456 (2021).

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  • Latin America
  • Informal elderly caregiving
  • Aging in place
  • Localized study