Old is Gold - Co-Production of Healthy Living for the Elderly Through Time Banking

John M. Carroll
Mary Beth Rosson

Sponsoring Agency
National Science Foundation


This project is funded under a joint solicitation between the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health, named "Smart and Connected Health" (SCH), which aims to accelerate the development and use of innovative approaches that would support the much needed transformation of healthcare across the entire population. The elderly represent a growing segment of the total population due to the mutually reinforcing effects of declining birth rates and increasing longevity. The prospect of caring for this elderly population by scaling current custodial approaches is not feasible: There are not enough younger people in the population. But beyond numbers, it is not clear that simply scaling up custodial approaches is even desirable. Elderly people comprise social assets to many kinds of organizations including corporations and local communities. Moreover, engaging in personally meaningful activity directly contributes to enjoying longer and healthier lives.

This project investigates timebank interactions as a socio-technical intervention to expand and extend opportunities for elderly people to live independently and productively, and more specifically, to cooperate with others to be more active and engaged. People use timebanks to exchange services valued by the time required to perform the services. Many timebank interactions are co-productions, services that reciprocally benefit both parties. These types of exchanges can be particularly powerful in helping both giver and receiver become more active and engaged.

The project analyzes the co-production of healthy living, in which people provide and receive social services and support. For example, when two people take a walk or play cards together, they are providing mutual care; each is helping the other to be more active and engaged. The study is a partnership with an aging-in-place organization and a retirement community, in order to investigate different living arrangements among the elderly. The study first analyzes current practices for healthy living among the elderly, and identify opportunities for timebanking support of these practices. Guided by this, timebanking tools and infrastructure to enhance co-production of health in communities of elderly people are designed, deployed, and evaluated.

Research Area
Health and Bioinformatics
Social and Organizational Informatics