Home alone with all the fam­ily as screens lead to soli­tary lives

Mil­lions of home­own­ers don’t live alone but are still lead­ing an in­creas­ingly soli­tary ex­is­tence. Sharon Dale re­ports.

Yorkshire Post - Property - - PROPERTY -

IN the 1970s when house­holds had no mi­crowave and lit­tle choice of en­ter­tain­ment, fam­i­lies were forced to eat to­gether then sit to­gether and ne­go­ti­ate over which of the three TV chan­nels to watch. Now, thanks to new tech­nol­ogy, many of us are liv­ing “to­gether apart” and lead­ing an in­creas­ingly soli­tary ex­is­tence.

Ac­cord­ing to a new study by Lloyds Bank Insurance, the ma­jor­ity of home­own­ers live with a part­ner or chil­dren but they are spend­ing much more time alone. More than one in six peo­ple in York­shire said they spent most of their wak­ing hours in the bed­room, with their smart­phone, lap­top and TV for com­pany.

Ac­cord­ing to The Bri­tain at Home Re­port, over half pre­fer to watch TV from the com­fort of their bed, rather than in the liv­ing room.

The sur­vey also found that more than 53 per cent of home­own­ers in the county have din­ner at a dif­fer­ent time to the rest of the fam­ily.

The way we use the rooms in our home has also rad­i­cally changed as a re­sult of our 21st cen­tury life­style. While the kitchen used to be a small, purely func­tional area and sec­ondary to the sit­ting room, it is now ranked as the most valu­able room in the house.

Over a third of those polled said they spent the most time in the kitchen and 54 per cent now en­ter­tain friends there in­stead of the liv­ing room.

Over the past year, home­own­ers have spent £1,235 on house­hold and kitchen ap­pli­ances, with 37 per cent in­vest­ing in a cof­fee ma­chine and 29 per cent fol­low­ing David Cameron’s lead and buy­ing a bread maker. As the kitchen rises in pop­u­lar­ity, the din­ing room ap­pears to be fall­ing out of favour. Two-thirds of home­own­ers have a din­ing room but 81 per cent say they usu­ally eat in the liv­ing room.

Me­lanie Backe-Hansen, house his­to­rian and au­thor of House His­to­ries: The Se­crets Be­hind Your Front Door, says: “Our homes have al­ways re­flected how we lead our lives.

“It’s now com­mon for our homes to con­tain more screens than peo­ple, and for mem­bers of the fam­ily to spend more time on their own af­ter a busy day. It is fas­ci­nat­ing to see mod­ern life tak­ing its toll on how we use our homes.

“Al­though nowa­days liv­ing spa­ces are less de­fined than the Vic­to­rian pe­riod, and far more multi-func­tional, it seems the tra­di­tion of fam­i­lies sit­ting down to eat to­gether may be im­pacted by longer work­ing hours, more hec­tic so­cial lives and the grow­ing in­flu­ence of tech­nol­ogy.”

Mum­taz Khan, se­nior lec­turer in psy­chol­ogy at Leeds Met­ro­pol­i­tan Univer­sity, adds: “We are def­i­nitely be­com­ing soli­tary within the home thanks to gad­gets like phones, tablets and gam­ing. This is re­ally test­ing re­la­tion­ships and cre­at­ing a lack of in­ti­macy. You have a sit­u­a­tion where you talk to hun­dreds of peo­ple via so­cial net­works but you don’t talk to the per­son down­stairs. I think peo­ple need to be aware and re­ally look at how long they are spend­ing online.”

The Lloyds re­port also showed that de­spite spend­ing less time with their fam­ily, Bri­tons are keen to splash out on their in­te­ri­ors. Home­own­ers in York­shire spent an av­er­age of £4,212 on new con­tents last year, in­clud­ing fur­ni­ture, art, ap­pli­ances and tech­nol­ogy.

Al­most 90 per cent of home­own­ers now have a flat screen TV, half have a tablet de­vice and 37 per cent have a cof­fee ma­chine. Most say the in­vest­ment was to im­prove their well­be­ing, though one in five said their mo­ti­va­tion was to keep up with neigh­bours and friends.

Ar­chi­tect Ric Blenkharn, of Bramhall Blenkharn in Mal­ton, sug­gests that more at­ten­tion be paid to de­sign and lay­out and how it af­fects hu­man be­hav­iour. He be­lieves that big­ger bed­rooms for chil­dren and so­cia­ble spa­ces that tempt fam­i­lies to come to­gether are cru­cial for bet­ter liv­ing. “Chil­dren’s bed­rooms have tra­di­tion­ally been quite small but they work bet­ter with some el­e­ment of liv­ing space in them so chil­dren can have a sleep­ing area along with room to study and re­lax.

“But one of the big is­sues we face is that tech­nol­ogy has made us all more in­su­lar to the point where it is quite fright­en­ing. Get­ting peo­ple to come to­gether to so­cialise can be dif­fi­cult, though it is throw­ing up cre­ative ideas.

“I have a client at the mo­ment who wants two bed­rooms for her chil­dren with a cen­tral play­room in the mid­dle that they can ac­cess via slid­ing screens. This means they can open up the whole space and play to­gether when they feel like it or they can close the screens and be on their own if they want to. That’s such a good idea and was in­spired by Ja­pan, where my client has spent some time work­ing.”

Ric adds that, al­though con­sid­ered a lux­ury, cin­ema rooms or snugs with pro­jec­tors and pull down screens, are also use­ful for tempt­ing peo­ple to get to­gether to watch a film or TV.

Large, open plan liv­ing spa­ces that in­clude a kitchen, sit­ting area and din­ing area also ap­pear to en­cour­age in­ter­ac­tion.

“They are pop­u­lar for good rea­son. They are the hub of the home, some­where that peo­ple come to­gether,” he says.

“Fol­low­ing on from that my own ad­vice is quite tra­di­tional and that’s to try and sit down and have your evening meal to­gether as a fam­ily. It gives you a chance to talk about your day and about is­sues that might be con­cern­ing you. It’s sim­ple but very ef­fec­tive.”

Twit­ter: @prop­er­ty­words

PRI­VATE LIVES: The bed­room is where many of us pre­fer to watch TV, bed from Ikea; From left, open plan liv­ing could be a so­lu­tion to our soli­tary lives at home (kitchen from Ikea); gad­gets and so­cial net­works are cre­at­ing a lonely Bri­tain (blue­tooth re­ceiver from red5.co.uk); eat­ing to­gether can also help build re­la­tion­ships away from so­cial net­works, ta­ble from Next.

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