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Older immigrants in need of care in times of digitalization

The case of filial piety in transition among Chinese families in Sweden

Time: Thu 2021-11-25 13.00

Location: T2, Hälsovägen 11C, Huddinge

Language: English

Subject area: Technology and Health

Doctoral student: Xin Chen , Teknisk vårdvetenskap

Opponent: Universitetslektor Magdalena Kania-Lundholm, Dalarna University College, Department of Culture and Society

Supervisor: Professor Britt Östlund, Teknisk vårdvetenskap; Universitetslektor Susanne Frennert, Malmö University, Department of Computer Science and Media Technology

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Globalization has facilitated international communication and economic activities that motivate more international migration. Different cultures and values from the West and the East are interwoven in the same social context. Meanwhile, aging has become a notable phenomenon in most developed countries due to declining fertility and increased life expectancy. A digital transformation of society is taking place alongside the aging and international migration that will start to question the image of older adults and the patterns of providing elderly care. Chinese elderly care is characterized by familism providing family-based informal care to an older family member. Despite the influence of migration and modern lifestyles, filial piety is expected to continue to guide the care responsibilities and care providing among Chinese families. 

This thesis aims to understand the cultural provision of support and care for Chinese older adults living in Sweden and under the influence of the digital transformation of society. It starts by exploring the disparities, barriers, and facilitators for older immigrants in need of home care to utilize digital technology. After constructing knowledge about the influences of the foreign environment and continuous digitalization in home care, the thesis seeks to understand how filial piety continues to be enacted; what part of the tradition is preserved, and what is changed; how the internal and external factors influence the decision of elderly care; and the role of digitalization in this process. The thesis utilizes qualitative in-depth interviews to continue investigations among eight midlife and older Chinese immigrants living in Sweden. Thematic analysis was employed for data analysis. Berry’s acculturation framework and Yeh’s Dual Filial Piety Model provide the theoretical ground for the research. 

The results indicated that filial piety is in transition in terms of filial responsibilities, filial behaviors, and intergenerational relationships. Despite the differences in the acculturation level, the authoritarian element of filial piety lacked ground in the Swedish social context. Respondents showed their willingness to strengthen the reciprocity with their adult children by providing additional support, valuing affections rather than hands-on care, respecting adult children’s decisions. The uptake of digital technologies has enabled midlife and older Chinese immigrants to maintain more frequent contact with family members and friends in other countries. It also improves the autonomy and capabilities for respondents to plan more independent later lives. The conclusion is that traditional values such as filial piety was not as prominent in Sweden as they are in China.