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.

“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.”

The home is also a “business”

By Antonio Argandoña

On 10 October the Home Renaissance Foundation held a meeting at IESE Business School, Barcelona, Spain, to launch the book The Home: Multidisciplinary Reflections, which was published last March. Instead of the standard presentation of the contents of the book, this session consisted of a brief presentation and a round table discussion on the part of academics, publicity agents, professionals and parents, talking about the home as a business. The following is a brief summary of my opening presentation.

Book HRF

A business is an organisation, and the home is also an organisation, i.e. a group of people working together for some common goals that will benefit all of them, though probably for different reasons. This definition contains five key elements:

  1. The people. In a business everyone is usually, though not always, there because they want to be. Participation in the home is not always voluntary: small children, for instance, cannot decide whether or not to remain at home. What matters is that in a business and a home alike, everyone counts: the family members, those who help from within it and from outside, relations and neighbours… all of them are shareholders, directors, employees, suppliers and clients.
  2. In a business each person has his or her own reasons for being there. The employees, for example, may wish to be paid, learn, improve their career, have a good time, make friends, etc. The same is true of a family, but here it is very important that all of them are at least to some extent prepared to do things for one another.
  3. Shared objectives. In a business, the central aim is the actual existence of the business, because everyone obtains from it what they need: clients receive goods or services, the employees receive pay, training and a career, the owners receive profit. The home is an organisation with multiple purposes: reproduction, nutrition, training, care, physical and psychological security, acquisition of an identity; plus restaurant, school, hospital, playground… a place to live, develop skills and talents, grow in knowledge, capacity, build attitudes, values, and virtues… and also learn to “replicate” the organisation, i.e. form another home in due course.
  4. Intentional participation, because, in the words of a colleague of mine, “the necessary and sufficient condition for an organisation to exist in reality is that there is a set of people who are motivated to belong to that organisation, with all that their membership implies. The organisation should aim to maintain and strengthen their motivation, without which the organisation would disintegrate.” When one member starts to think that he or she would rather be somewhere else, the home begins to break up.
  5. Coordination and direction are also needed. In the context of the home this is not necessarily hierarchical, or necessarily democratic: it probably changes over time. What matters is that everyone feels involved in this coordination, each according to his or her possibilities. The baby’s involvement consists of crying, laughing, eating and dirtying its nappies, because all of that is what motivates the rest to take on their respective responsibilities.

To sum up: a home is an organisation that one is always (or almost always) part of, sometimes without explicitly deciding to be. It is a community of persons each with their own reasons for being there, but above all, with an interest in the home’s fulfilling its function and continuing to exist; and it can be replicated in new places, albeit with changes. The key of a home lies in its members’ readiness to work together with others, including people from outside, to make it a place of training in knowledge, abilities, attitudes, dispositions, values and virtues, in regard to different family members at different times. And meanwhile the home offers services to its members, which are an opportunity to live together and fulfil that particular function. The home is an excuse for living together. For that to happen, everyone needs to be prepared to do everything when the time comes: each is necessary, and each member has to find his or her role at each moment. I explained this with a phrase of my own: in the home, each member has to be ready to iron an egg or fry a shirt.

Calls for a ‘digital detox’ in the home

There’s no denying that the internet is immensely useful – connecting young people with their friends and with just a few clicks, a world of information comes to our screens. But as most of us have discovered, it comes at a price – it’s hugely addictive!

We all know people who just seem unable to look away from their devices and see so many youngsters today absorbed by their phones as they walk along the street. Their eyes become glazed and it takes a lot to peel them away from tablets, laptops or smartphones. Technology is controlling us rather than the other way round. The only way to keep it in check is a digital detox at least once a week where everyone puts away their devices and speaks to each other, before we risk turning into social recluses. And where does most training begin? Naturally, in the home – it’s where our core values are nurtured and reach fruition.  It calls for a day a week when the family sit down together and chat or go out for a walk come rain or shine, when we challenge ourselves to achieve something rather than retire to the comfort of the smartphone when the forecast doesn’t look too bright.

According to Dr Tim Elmore, Founder of ‘Growing Leaders’, an organisation dedicated to mentoring young people to become the leaders of tomorrow, parents need to stop mollycoddling their children. They have to teach youngsters to possess true “grit” if they are to survive the digital era of instant communication, where everything happens at the click of a switch and people can feel overwhelmed by the demands being made of them. Dr Elmore, whose two children both suffered severe bouts of anxiety as they were growing up even though they came from a “healthy” home, states in his book ‘Stressed Out’ that today’s adolescents are “overcommitted”, “overexposed” and “overprotected.”

“Parents have often nurtured them, coddled them, and done a much better job protecting than preparing their kids for the world that awaits them as adults. We’ve prepared the path for the child instead of the child for the path. It would be easy to assume this is only true for adolescents from very busy and affluent areas….. but it’s happening everywhere,” says Dr Elmore.

“One could argue we should be the happiest, most well-adjusted people in history with more technology, more conveniences, more stress-saving devices available than ever. Sadly we seem to be more depressed than previous generations. Times in the past were simpler and we expected to get less done during the days, we attempted less during any given day. All of the clutter and expectations are catching up on us. There are lots of things screaming at us to stimulate us –so when we are experiencing periods that are not stimulating we can feel down,” he said.

He recommends that the quickest steps children can take to maintain happy lives is to have “margin” in their days. “Those who are emotionally healthy are those who create margin in their calendar,” he says. “They schedule portions of their day to create space. They remove noise and clutter during those portions of the time. They experience solitude, quietness, simplicity. They take control of their day instead of remaining at the mercy of the busyness going on.”

According to neuroscientists, it’s when we’re bored that we can be most creative. So let’s all ‘unplug’ periodically, show more empathy and use our imagination to greater effect!

Judge for yourself! 

This is very simple. You don’t need anyone to tell you whether or not you’re managing your home well. You already know.

untidy

Open the door, observe and answer the following questions:

  1. Do you and your partner form a solid, respectful union, apart from the inevitable bickering that most couples succumb to? Are you capable of solving the day to day problems that arise in the home and tackling together the more serious issues?
  2. Do you both share the responsibilities and household tasks? The amount you each do doesn’t necessarily have to be equal in percentage terms but simply the distribution of tasks that best work for you in your home.
  3. Does communication flow well between all the members of the household?
  4. What is not working? Think about it without kidding yourself. Can you solve those problems with the participation and collaboration of your children? Don’t forget that the home belongs to all those who inhabit it, although adults have more responsibilities than younger members of the household. Remember that teamwork is always the best solution!
  5. As parents, and remembering yourselves as children, do you feel that your children are growing up in a true home?
  6. Is there anything in your home that you think could be improved? It doesn’t consist in thinking of an idyllic home as an example, because all of us would want a bigger or better-located house, with more light, more rooms or a larger kitchen or with a butler to serve us! Simply think of your home –  is that the place where all its members (parents, children, grandparents) are loved for what they are and receive the necessary and basic attention to grow and develop as human beings?
  7. Finally, do you think that your home is that place you always look forward to returning to?

If the answer to this last question is yes, congratulations. You’re building that home that everybody deserves and many don’t have.

If the answer is no, don’t feel overwhelmed, everything has a solution, it’s just looking for someone to guide us in what we are not good at and trying to improve it. There are no magic formulas, those tips that work in some houses, might not work in others. The key is to detect and recognise that something is wrong and get the proper diagnosis.

After all, the home is the first community we belong to and the most important company of our life. Let’s take good care of it!