Happy Homes, Happy Society?

We are about to launch our next international Conference: Happy Homes, Happy Society? to be held in London 12th -13th November 2020. This will be our fifth conference and we are very excited about the focus, which this time is on Happiness and the contribution that domestic life makes to the wellbeing –“happiness”- of wider society in a time of social changes.

There is a clear public as well as academic and professional engagement with this topic. Happiness indices and surveys at both popular and research levels are a current trend in monitoring and improving individual and societal wellbeing. At HRF we see an equally clear link between this and the attitudes and activities fostered in stable homes and a further link to how housing policies and practice and the new SMART technologies contribute to the home’s role in this wellbeing.

Next week, we will be launching a Call for Papers, so we would love to reach all those researchers whose work relates in some way to the home. Many disciplines from architecture to social sciences and from art history to town planning have vital contributions to make to this discussion. On our website, you will find summaries and papers that have been presented on topics relating to the home at our previous conferences.

Happy Homes, Happy Society? will have two main strands:

1.How is happiness/wellbeing linked to activities of the home? What are the key indicators for happy homes and what is the wider social benefit of happy people?

2.New technologies: Housing and Connecting. How do new trends in architecture and planning and the new digital technologies allow for maximum opportunities for those home activities and connections that lead to greater individual and thereby societal happiness?

We have hundreds of questions that we would love researchers to answer. Here is just a taste of some of the areas we are interested in exploring:

  • Is it possible to establish a series of criteria to consider whether a home is happy or not?
  • Are new technologies and AI developing according to human needs and contributing to people’s happiness?
  • How can we ascertain if the work required in creating a happy home and improving the coexistence of all its members is better performed manually or by machines?
  • Home and its role in children’s happiness. Why is this important?
  • Attitudes in the home that contribute to the happiness of its members
  • Poverty and happiness in the home: what is the relationship?
  • Unstructured families and happiness at the home
  • The relationship between happiness in the current home and that of the parents or previous generations
  • The elderly as “creators” of happiness for children and young people
  • How much do the material conditions of the home contribute to well-being?
  • How SMART technologies contribute to (or make difficult) happiness in the home?
  • Which housing schemes/policies best promote happiness/connectedness?
  • Why do we want to grow old in the home? How is this best achieved?

We hope that this gives you a good “snap-shot” introduction to our conference Happy Homes, Happy Society? and that all of you reading this post who may have questions about the relationship between Happy Homes and a Happy Society, will send them to us and help us in the promotion of the Call for Papers. We are looking for researchers from all over the world, perhaps that means you, or you know of someone worth contacting? Please keep us and them posted. Much more information in later posts, so please, “Watch this Space!”

Why does HRF exist?

The summer season may now have faded, but it has left behind such happy memories. It is the season when, in my case, you can use your holiday time to return home after working outside your city or country, a time for happy reunions.

“What about your life? How are you getting on? Are you working abroad, away from your family? These are questions that I answer again and again when my work for Home Renaissance Foundation comes to light.

I often explain my professional activity by saying that I work for a think tank, but people usually want to know what kind of a think tank. And I explain that HRF explores the care of the home, helping it to be more effective and better managed, so we can all benefit from happier homes. Homes where family members develop into well-grounded adults, sharing responsibilities and looking after the welfare of everyone. The response is often along the lines of “please tell me more, I didn’t realise a foundation exists that could help me in all the headaches of running my home!”

We devote many more hours working outside our homes, but at the end of the day, we have to come back home. And home is the place where we spend most time together, relaxing and being ourselves and giving ourselves generously to others. And it is not always easy. We are not born able to do this. The home we come from may differ from the one we go on to create, although it retains a common structure. Life changes and evolves, with new technologies offering solutions that were not available in the past. Each home is different and managed in its own individual way. The ideal is that we understand the concept of the well-run home and avail ourselves of all the tools necessary to enable us to manage our homes in the best possible way.

And that is why HRF exists because we are aware of the importance of the home and the effort and work required to manage and run a home and family. And we are aware, through investigation and using more advanced data, the extent of the disciplines and fields of study that converge on the home – the importance of the distribution of space, the relations between its members, shared responsibilities, the education and the example of parents, the work necessary to provide for basic needs, the demand for collaboration among all its members.

The work of this international think tank is never ending. We are actively planning our fifth international conference to be held in 2020. We hope that those involved in exploring issues related to the home will be presenting papers and help further expand the growing community worldwide focused on the well-being of the home. Watch this space for more details next month.

Harnessing the digital revolution in the home

Welcome to this month’s blog and welcome back to school, college and everything else that starts again in September!

This month we are looking forward to all the good things autumn has in store. As we pack away the memories of a happy summer we have some advice on “Keeping the Glow” into the new season.

In our feature article, Rosemary Roscoe continues her series of insights into the opportunities offered by the digital technologies to our homes. This month Rosemary considers Intergenerational Homes of the Future. The value of grandparents in the continuing care and nurture of the family is becoming more and more widely recognised and we now need to build the homes and support the policies that allow this to flourish.

As the post-summer routine starts again perhaps you could do with some inspiration for activities and recipes to start autumn in style. There are lots of ways to make this month a golden one so see if any of these creative ideas can put a spring (!) in your step this September.

Enjoy all that this “season of mists and mellow fruitfulness” brings your way and keep us posted on all your September plans!

Angela

Harnessing the digital revolution in the home

“An estimated 2.5 billion people worldwide possess a smartphone, a device virtually unheard of just over 10 years ago. It’s little wonder that digital technology is permeating just about every aspect of our lives – and cellular data revolutionising the home and office, blurring the lines between ‘work time’ and ‘play time’.  Whether limitless access to the internet is a good thing is a matter for debate but one thing is for certain – it’s here to stay.
At the Home Renaissance Foundation’s Experts Meeting at the Royal Society of Medicine in London, Mei-Lin Fung, Co-founder of the People Centre Internet, questioned “whether transparency between our internal and external spaces is disturbing millennia-old notions of the family.” She emphasised the need for the digital home to be “a safe place where we live, play, learn, earn and develop the skills to care about other human beings. It is both a real and virtual space where people make healthy and responsible choices so that we can thrive together.” She emphasised that “we must envisage and define what we as humans want a digital home to mean, in a world where digital technology can be embedded in every aspect of human life.”

Addressing the meeting, eminent psychologist Sonia Livingstone, Professor of Social Psychology, Department of Media and Communications at LSE,  while acknowledging the much-publicised risks posed by social media, cautioned against enforcing a blanket two-hour limit to screen time. She advocated instead that parents sit down with their children and talk about what exactly they are doing on the internet.
While online games are obviously addictive they are not all necessarily bad for children’s development. Apparently, some strategic video games, that aren’t claiming to be educational, can nevertheless help with problem-solving and spatial skills and even improve academic performance. Studies, however, have reported that young people immersed in ‘screens’ for too long are not using face-to-face communication and could be losing important social skills as well as taking time away from schoolwork.

But it’s not just young people who struggle to control their screen time –according to a new report by Common Sense Media, most parents worry that their children are addicted to devices, but about four in 10 teenagers have the same concern about their parents!”

Rosemary Roscoe

The ‘smart’ approach to intergenerational living

Welcome to this month’s Behome Blog,

August! How did it get to be “high summer” already? As I write this I am picturing many of you on holiday either away or at home. Whether you are reading this on the beach or sitting in your garden or local park I hope that you are able to make the most of this special time of year.

I wonder how much screen-time your holidays have involved so far? Apart from catching up on your favourite blogs, how much of your time is spent with a mobile or tablet in your hand, or TV or computer on in your home? And how much is too much? Navigating the Digital Revolution in the home is the timely and important focus of our main article this month. Enjoy reading Rosemary Roscoe’s thoughts on this and let us know what you think.

On the same theme have a look here at some helpful guidelines from the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health. This is a topic that affects us all and it’s good to be informed about how to enjoy the benefits and recognize the dangers of the digital home.

Whatever the rest of your summer brings I hope there are plenty of opportunities to “switch off” and enjoy the company of friends and family this month.

Angela

“Driving up and down the motorway or flying overseas can be stressful and expensive for families wanting to visit loved ones after moving away to follow career paths. So it’s hardly surprising that families are increasingly opting for multi-generational living, where pooling resources can mean a higher standard of living for all with two or more generations of a family able to afford a bigger and more attractive home. A recent study indicated that the number of multigenerational households in the UK will increase to 2.2 million by 2025, a rise of more than 30%.

While the boomerang generation accounts for the biggest increase,  with adult children returning to live with their parents to save up for a deposit for their own home, many elderly couples are more than happy to house share with their children and grandchildren while still maintaining a high degree of independence.  The benefit for working parents is having live-in childcare at hand, while the grandparents have the advantage of emotional and practical support if needed and closeness to their grandchildren.
The logistics of shared living spaces and the design of the inter-generational home is the focus for architects, who are coming up with ‘smart’ solutions to accommodate the needs of several generations living in one home. At an experts meeting organised by the Home Renaissance Foundation addressing ‘The Home in the Digital Age’, Professor Mohamed Gamal Abdelmonem confirmed that over 27% of the population in the EU will be above the age of 65 by 2025, leading to “care becoming an essential domestic activity, with intergenerational dependence and mobility informing the socio-spatial systems of modern homes.”

Prof Abdelmonem, who is Chair in Architecture at Nottingham Trent University, told the meeting at the Royal Society of Medicine in London “that to be sustainable and central to family living, homes need to revisit their roles as private spaces, and integrate technologies that are family-friendly with clear ethical and moral principles.“ He cautioned on the need to retain privacy and “design homes with a network of spaces (indoor and outdoor) that a person uses routinely as a haven with a high degree of comfort and intimacy. Attempts to interact with people at their home territories without following the settled code of action, such as knocking on the door, is considered an unjustifiable intrusion,” he said. Prof. Abdelmonem acknowledged the usefulness of technology with “eMedicine applications, working from home, digital media for studying at home and assisted living for older people.”

Research has shown that children need four to six involved, caring adults in their lives to fully develop emotionally and socially. With the problem of children spending too much time with friends on social media and not enough one-on-one time with adults, what better way to redress the balance than having live-in, doting grandparents!”

Rosemary Roscoe

The dignity of work surpasses robots

Welcome to the July issue of the BehomeBlog,

This month sees many of us setting off on holiday and packing away the “every day” for some special time with family and friends. It is always good to take a break from our routines, if only that it helps us to appreciate them better when we get home. In this month’s blog, Rosemary Roscoe develops our theme of the opportunities and challenges of the new technologies in the home by looking at how the dignity of work surpasses robots. Something very good to reflect on wherever we are this month.

We also know that the long summer holiday can bring its headaches as well as its joys, especially for those of us juggling professional and family lives. Have a look at these suggestions for keeping everyone happy with a Family Festival.

 

One of the great pleasures of time away can be to finally get down to reading that book we’ve meant to read for ages. If you haven’t got a book waiting to go in your suitcase have a look at some of these recommendations for good summer reading instead.

So, whether today you are on the beach, in the office or in the playground enjoy this month’s blog and have a great summertime!

Angela

Ignore the science fiction: AI is like the new electricity of our time, powering opportunity and growth, but it isn’t out to get us!
Super-intelligent robots are on their way – and they’re going to change the world as we know it but they are never going to replace the person as the head, concluded the Experts’ Meeting ‘The Home in the Digital Age’ at the Royal Society of Medicine recently.

“With the recent advances in artificial intelligence we leap ahead to the existential dangers, and at the same time wonder whether there aren’t more pressing issues to discuss: healthcare, climate change, education, the economy. Well, they are pressing issues — but AI has an impact on all of them,”  said Mei-Lin Fung, Vice Chair Internet Inclusion at IEEE Internet Initiative, when she addressed the Home Renaissance Foundation’s meeting in London recently.
“Every 10 to 15 years there is a technology breakthrough that really changes what it means to be human. The internet, mobile phones, social media and, most recently, AI voice assistance: all of these amplify the human experience. And with each technological game-changer, we go through much of the same series of questions and anxieties. We worry both that it’s all too much and too little.”

Dr Ioana Ocnarescu, a Design Researcher at Strate School of Design in Paris, showed an amusing clip of an elderly actor outwitting his ‘smart’ home gadgets designed to encourage health eating, getting a good night’s sleep and exercise.
Feeling comfortable and able to outwit their robotics helps the elderly not to feel ashamed or humiliated by their disabilities, said Professor Luisa Damiano of the University of Messina, who spoke about the use of therapeutic robots to stimulate reactions in children with special or certain needs. Simplifying the complexities of robotics, Professor Damiano, Associate Professor of Logic and Philosophy of Science, explained that we are not capable of creating biochemical, cell-like robots, only mechanical robots, giving them social presence and social skills.

“There is the extended mind hypothesis – the mind technology as an extension of the individual mind. But when we interact with robots we are interacting with ourselves, we have supplied the information, the instructions. Reciprocal social relations is an illusion,” she said.

AI is moving at such a pace and technology so smart that tech moguls like Elon Musk say they are “terrified” of Artificial Intelligence – but just how powerful is it in reality if people control the power source? Engineers and companies may be ‘wowing’ us with their mind-blowing machines but it’s evident that’s exactly what they are  – machines and gadgets without consciousness, that are controlled by their operators.  The biggest threat is to jobs but people won’t allow robots to put an end to human labour as we are intrinsically aware of the dignity work brings.

Work not only gives dignity to the person carrying it out but also to those on the receiving end and we will always value it. No robot, hologram or other talking machine, however warm and friendly their voices may sound, could ever replace the human touch – so traditional ‘people-centred’ jobs will never go away. Automation could well mean less work and more leisure time in the future but we really don’t have to worry about being ‘out-populated’ or outperformed by robots!

Rosemary Roscoe

Home and Climate Change | The day of the Family

Welcome to the June issue of the BeHome Blog,

I do hope that the sun is shining as you are reading this and that summer feels now as though it has really arrived. Hopefully, along with the warmer weather come more opportunities to spend time outside with family and friends.

I am sure that we all have happy memories of this time of the year and hope to recreate some of those good experiences for the next generation. This month in the blog I am sharing some of the ideas I was able to present on the International Day of the Family for the Family Studies Institute, The Family Watch roundtable at the Spanish Parliament in Madrid, looking at the role of the home in relation to climate change. You will see in my post how key the home is in making a real difference to our planet.

I am sure there are lots of great ideas you have about passing on respect for the natural world starting at home but have a look too at these suggestions to really make the most of the summertime.

Please let us know what you think of this month’s blog by leaving a comment or maybe sharing your ideas on ecology at home.  We really do appreciate your comments and feedback to help us make a difference to your homemaking.

Enjoy the sunshine!

Angela

As you probably know, the Day of the Family was celebrated worldwide on May 15, a date established by the United Nations 26 years ago in recognition of its value as a basic pillar of society.

This year the focus was on ‘Families and Climate Action’, an issue that undoubtedly affects the planet as a whole and has a negative impact, not only on the economy but also on the lives of people.

The Family Studies Institute, The Family Watch, held a roundtable on May 14 at the Spanish Parliament in Madrid, to discuss the role of the home in relation to climate change and to explain to those who legislate what practices can be carried out to mitigate this threat. Our Project and Media Manager, Angela de Miguel, participated in the debate, which drew many of the conclusions that we already reached at our International Conference on Home and Sustainability, held in London in 2011.

Without sustainable homes, there is no sustainable planet. It is essential to teach our children the importance of caring for the environment and to act as an example to them. If we do not learn to take care of our home, we will hardly take care of everything else. This planet is not just ours, it will be inherited by future generations. If we give it the value it deserves, we will take better care of it.

If one thing is clear to us at the Home Renaissance Foundation, it is the importance of a social and cultural transformation in terms of sustainability. We wish to promote change and to be catalysts through research, as we urgently need to apply sustainable practices so as not to deplete the resources offered by nature. If you want real advice or good practices to follow in your home, you can follow us on Instagram @smarthomemanagement There you will find many helpful ideas on management and home care.

Handmade Homes

“Developments in Artificial Intelligence will render 80% of ‘white-collar’ professional jobs redundant over the next thirty years.”

This was one of the very striking predictions made by Dr Stephen Davies of the Institute of Economic Affairs at the Home Renaissance Foundation Experts’ Meeting: The Home in the Digital Age this February.

Education, health – diagnostics and therapies, banking and legal processes will all be more efficiently carried out by the new technologies.

Alongside this startling vision of the future was another prediction: that replacing the human brain with a machine will prove easier than replacing the human hand. Our future will be handmade.

Already it is possible to see a renewed interest in artisanal activities and businesses. How many micro-breweries, specialist bread and locally-roasted coffee shops are there now than there were a decade ago?

Alongside this, websites such as Etsy and Pinterest are providing a platform for hand and homemade articles. There is an awakening interest and desire to move away from fast, faceless mass-production to individual, “one-off”, “bespoke” or “hand-crafted” things for our homes and for ourselves.

These skills and processes speak of time, talent and care. It is appealing to look at a piece of jewellery or furniture – or even a cup of coffee or bread roll – and know that it has been lovingly and painstakingly created rather than rolled off a robotic conveyor belt.

This, then, is an opportunity for craftsmen and women to gain a market for their work, but it also offers an opportunity for all of us to reengage with many of the traditional skills that got left behind in the rush for mechanization.

Only a matter of a generation ago, school children were taught not only the theory of materials and textiles as they are today,  but actually how to make things in wood, metal and clay, how to knit, to sew, to weave and to mend.

With these skills – and admittedly some aptitude and much practice-  a school-leaver was capable of making and maintaining the fabric of their home. Nowadays although this is much less likely, those skills basic to this literal “home-making” are becoming increasingly accessible again. Youtube is bursting with clips of “how to” and many local hubs are offering training in traditional crafts.

One of the best ways of gaining new skills and motivating ourselves to use them is to have a project in mind. It might be to add feature to our gardens: “I made this bench myself”. It might be to make clothes for ourselves or our children – or curtains, or chair covers or whatever else it takes our fancy to make our own distinctive mark upon.

Taking time to immerse ourselves in learning and creating is so much more satisfying than the quick “hit” of buying things. As the days get longer and brighter and our energy levels rise with the coming summer sunshine, why not try your hand at making something for your home? You will be building the future at the same time!

“Society”: you, me, us, all

When we speak of “society” it can seem like something that does not have anything to do with us. We happily use the term society to refer to the number of problems that exist in it, but we are not aware that society is us. Society can only improve if everyone puts in their two-penny worth. Because society means everyone, including you!

For this reason, when the Home Renaissance Foundation affirms that society can collapse without well-managed homes, we observe that nobody is surprised, nobody screams, no one tears their clothes as though bemoaning a great loss. A dysfunctional society is a society that does not advance or grow, and we understand that nobody wants that, but it does not penetrate the heart or thoughts of many because the concept of “society” becomes more remote with the passing of each day.

It may be that another reason why we no longer give value to the idea of “society” is the lack of feeling of belonging. We do not belong to the “society”, we belong to the school football club, the neighbourhood association, the tennis club, the local gym. We feel part of groups or communities where we have a degree of influence, either because we pay a subscription, or because we feel we belong there and that our opinion matters.

And of course, you may say that apart from the taxes we pay in exchange for basic services, why should we feel part of a “society” where our opinion doesn’t appear to matter and authorities never consult us when making decisions? Who asks me what I think before introducing or abolishing laws?  We may feel so far removed from the management and governance of that “society” that we distance ourselves from the idea of society as a whole.

But like everything in life, nothing can be understood or seen in its true perspective if we cannot visualise it in a particular way. And to recover the meaning of “society”, we should take as an example that small and close “society” that we have in our immediate environment, the one in which our opinions matter, where we feel part of, that takes our feelings and opinions into account … namely, the home. Our family is a microcosm of society. And we feel that we belong there because of the unity that exists between members of our home. Each action we take has a consequence, which is normally direct and immediate.

At HRF we examine the home in-depth from many different angles, as a reflecting mirror for society. When households do not function well, the knock-on effect is immediate and direct on society.  We should therefore first and foremost take great care of the home as the microcosm of society.

Spring Clean!

KondoMarieThe web and the wider media are full at the moment of encouragements to declutter our homes, our minds and our lives. Marie Kondo’s new TV series is gaining as great a following as her books. Tidying Up with Marie Kondo now on Netflix shows Marie Kondo “sparking joy” and sharing the KonMari approach to keeping homes and lives under control.  She has some very useful and thoughtful tips on how to tackle the “stuff” that surrounds us and makes coming home more of a groan than a sigh of delight. Underpinning her system and the message of the TV series is that there is a link between tidy well-managed homes and healthier emotional and personal lives.

Some people have reacted to this message by accusing it as being overly-simplistic: “You cannot just tidy away the hurts and pains with the laundry.” Ms Kondo’s message is more nuanced than that though. She has noticed, practised and is now sharing her belief, that putting in the right place the things we can control gives us some “head-space” and time for the trickier things that get in our way.

Nobody is suggesting that a perfect airing cupboard will bring a perfect family life. It is true however that having some order and method in living together can lead to a calmer and less stressful home. If only that there might be more time to talk to your partner, teenager, toddler if less time was spent dealing with their things.

Another part of this trend is seen in the new urge for cleaning our homes. A decade ago we were asked “How Clean is your house?” by that Marigold-wielding dynamic duo Aggie MacKenzie and Kim Woodburn. Now it is 28 year old Sophie Hinchliffe “Mrs Hinch” who has taken social media by storm with her cleaning hacks, most notably running a squeegee over your carpets to see what the hoover missed.

A quick read of her Instagram following suggests that her those who make up “Hinch’s Army” are the same age – young women who are discovering the joys of deep-cleaning their homes and sharing their tips with others. There is also a strong implication that taking control of cleaning has led to better control in other areas of life. Sophie Hinchliffe has made plain in her interviews that she suffers from anxiety and panic attacks and that cleaning and caring for her home and husband have helped her to manage these.

A new broom is sweeping through the old ideas that cleaning and home-management are out-dated drudgeries. The new emphasis is on the pleasure and benefits of paying attention to these areas of our lives. The real message here is that our home environments are vital to our wellbeing. This spring may not see us turning out every cupboard and hoovering the loft, but it should encourage us to see how caring better for our homes translates into caring better for ourselves and our families. Time to spring clean our ideas as well as our homes!

The heroism of a mother’s love

Pilar Jericó, writer and speaker 
*This is an excerpt from her speech for BBVA and EL País broadcast

“Our children are our teachers and they reflect the struggles that we sometimes go through. How can we expect our children to manage difficulties if we don’t know how to do so ourselves? How can we ask our children to speak with affection if we do not know how to treat people affectionately ourselves? Developing inner strength is the first step, for only by learning it ourselves can we awaken that power and grandeur that will inspire our children.

Light Thomas EdisonOne personal history that I read and that has impressed me most is the biography of Thomas Alva Edison. Edison was born in 1847 in Ohio but at the age of 7 he moved with his whole family to the very cold State of Michigan. He was the youngest of 7 children. He started to attend school but lasted just 12 weeks, after returning home with a note from the school that he was warned only his mother was allowed to read. So Thomas handed it straight to his mother without knowing what the note contained. Mrs Edison read it and began to cry. Thomas was worried saying, “what’s wrong, Mum, what’s wrong?” She recovered herself and replied: “Do you know what the letter says? That you are a genius, a genius! They can’t teach you any more at school so from now on I am your teacher.” From the age of 11, with his mother as his guide, Thomas devoured literature, reading a great number of books. By the age of 12, he was absorbed in conducting experiments and little by little the great inventor began to emerge. When he was 24, Edison’s mother died. While he and his siblings were going through their mother’s belongings, Edison stumbled across the school note that he had given her as a small child. When he opened it, remembering what his mother had told him at the time, Thomas cried because the letter did not contain his mother’s words but said: “Thomas is mentally impaired, he is not permitted to return to school.”

That is the magnificence and heroism of a mother’s love – the courage we possess as parents to see beyond the external to the greatness within our children. That is the path we have to follow in education. We must wake up and be aware of our shortcomings and our vulnerability, and through it, we will learn to forgive ourselves and to live life with more sensitivity. In this way, we will awaken the hidden depths in ourselves and in them. The path of education consists in educating the heart to awaken such splendour.”