Solutions for Remote Social Touching

Bison code: L.28107

The corona crisis has given rise to the project “Remote Social Touching”, which started in February 2021. Drastic interventions by the government are keeping a distance from each other and avoiding physical contact as much as possible. In all kind of care settings, care professionals have been confronted with dire situations: clients were no longer allowed to be visited or touched, in the palliative phase they had to say goodbye remotely and people died alone without being close to loved ones. So, professionals are faced with the question of how to bridge the physical distance when social contact is not possible or is less possible.

Both technological and non-technological solutions are known to enable and/or simulate social touching. Examples are the use of plastic sheets, a cuddly wall or the HEY-bracelet. In practice, however, these possible solutions are not yet widely applied, because they are relatively new and there is still little known about the effect. The question is therefore whether we have sufficient understanding of the perception of those involved and what solutions they want around social touching.

The complexity of this current issue means that existing options must be carefully considered or adjusted, or that new solutions must be developed in a multidisciplinary way. In particular, we are looking for workable solutions for all involved and not “just” as a technological innovation.

The research is structured on the basis of six sub-questions.

  1. What significance does social touching have for people with a palliative care need and their relatives, and which sensory aspects are essential in this?
  2. What barriers to social touching are experienced by those involved in the context of COVID-19?
  3. Which (technological) solutions are already available for the solution directions (touching, simulating or replacing touch) and what are the experiences of those involved?
  4. What preconditions are there and what requirements are set with regard to the solution directions?
  5. What concepts can be devised for the solution directions around social touch?
  6. What three possible social touch solutions are the most feasible and desirable?

This SSS project will focus on question 5 and 6, but needs answers on question 3 and 4 as well.

The project was initiated by the Saxion School of Healthcare, Nursing research group, and care organisations Zorgaccent and Gelre Hospitals, seeking connections with relevant research groups within the university (Industrial Design, Ambient Intelligence, Sustainable & Functional Textiles, Technology Health & Care and Ethics & Technology) and Elitac Wearables.

Cluster:  Elderly Care 2