In the context of the transformation of welfare states into participatory societies, care and welfare professionals are assigned new roles. In the Netherlands, they are tasked with activating and empowering older adults, as well as negotiating customised care. For this purpose, policymakers introduced the kitchen table conversation as a social technology to assess needs and abilities in an informal setting, at home or in public places. The notion of a kitchen table refers to the idea that an informal sphere may increase the professionals' ability to attune to the needs and abilities of citizens. This paper discusses findings of a qualitative study, in which ethnographic methods were used to examine kitchen table conversations with older adults in practice. Our study demonstrates that, although the tool aims to increase attunement between professionals and citizens, it actually creates tensions between policy, professionals and citizens. Professionals struggle with the issue of how other policy expectations - such as cutting the costs of care - resonate in the conversations, a phenomenon which becomes even more awkward in the private domain of older adults. In practice, however, rather than mediating participative citizens, kitchen table conversations mainly generate ambiguity in relationships between professionals and citizens.
- older people
- social policy