Jussi Lehtonen

Researcher
European Ethnology, University of Turku
email: jussi.lehtonen@utu.fi

The tasks assigned to animals have grown rapidly in recent years. This includes companionship roles for cats and dogs in nursing homes or the role of horses in the rehabilitation of the mentally disabled. The relationship between humans and assistance animals is close, as it includes proximate cooperation and shared daily practices and rhythms. As with pets, the individuality of an animal is evident in these relationships.

koira-merella
© Jussi Lehtonen

In my study “Animals in senior citizens’ nursing and housing in the 2040’s” I will concentrate on the future scenarios of animals and senior citizens co-living. Much has been discussed and hypothesised about the automatisation and robotisation of mankind’s future. I will complement these scenarios by examining the alternative of potential animalisation. In demographic terms, as post-industrial societies grow older and no longer have sufficient resources to take care of the elderly,  I anticipate that the growing number of human-animal partnerships will replace humans in care duties.

I will begin my study by analysing assistance animals in a historical and contemporary context from ethnological point of view. Then I proceed to create future scenarios with futures studies methods. For this purpose I will conduct interviews and arrange future workshops in different parts of Finland, inviting both stakeholders and persons who have no direct connection with either nursing services or assistance animals. After this I will carry out a Delphi process  on the basis of which I will eventually construct maximum of 10 alternative scenarios covering the next  three decades.

More information in Finnish.