Day after Day, In A Lifetime

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3 chairs for lifetime in home

In his lifetime, my father lived in five different homes – and then residential care.

In my lifetime I have lived in several countries, in different types of homes, alone and with diverse people. 

And then… there is whatever happens next.

From one generation to the next, the experiences, opportunities and everyday life cannot be compared as like for like. They are different times. But, (like everyone else) for both of us our day to to day existence is/was broken up by (significant) events (births, graduation,  moving house)  interspersed by (planned)  events such as holidays, family celebrations and social/work events. 

There is a lot of time spent with (everyday) recurring daily needs related to childcare, housework, cooking, shopping, paying bills. But also, there are significant (random) chunks of time spent caring for relatives, volunteering  watching TV alongside (fixed) timeslots for sports and hobbies. Where does the time go?

We only live one life

Rather than something set by (significant) birthdays, life is a continuum of experience and living.  As we move into different lifestages, our needs, interests and values shift and change. 

People may to think there is nothing ‘special’ about their lives – compared to others – and that they do not have a story to tell.

In a day to day existence, as one day moves into the next, it is difficult to register something that might be noteworthy. A routine, by definition, is something we take for granted; where life  doesn’t seem to change. 

It’s only when one way of life makes a dramatic shift that it becomes much easier to articulate ‘change’. 

Bereavement, serious illness, a pandemic, a lottery win or the arrival quintuplets are pivotal changes. Reflecting on the change that has occurred we recognise that we do have a story to share. And, in the bigger scheme of things, we can see this is a story to which other people might relate.

In 2020/21 right across the globe Covid-19 is (still) wreaking havoc everywhere and on everyone.

‘Normal life’ is disrupted; we are all living (in a new way) with reduced personal/ social contact. We have limited  (or no) access to everyday spaces  such as shops, hairdressers, day centres and churches. But also, no access to other countries, other people’s homes, gigs, pubs and restaurants. Momentous occasions, such as weddings and funerals, have been small, involving immediate family only.

These are extraordinary times –  yet, every day seems much the same. And, although it is a shared experience, we are not all in the same boat. For that reason, it seems like it is very much our own personal journey.

So, with our life on hold and our life experiences compromised what is the story of this pandemic?  

How does it affect people in their day to day life, and their longterm plans –  and,  what can we learn from this?

U OK UK?, an excellent series of reports by branding company Karmarama,   has been tracking  people’s changing thought, moods, and values in the UK, over the course of this pandemic.

Visually, beautifully presented, and highly accessible, it concludes with clear insights and pertinent observations. With the focus on what people ‘think’ it digs deep to discover what people want (and what they need)  to consider how their values change and how that will affect what happens next.  

Highlights – in short:

  • The absence of change” –the fact that people cannot move forward.

 People feel stuck because they cannot plan ahead. But…is this a state of enforced inertia or an awakening to slower and more sustainable living?

  • People feel more insular, and less like a citizen of the world

The curtailment of travel means less exposure to other countries and cultures. Our focus now is on what we need (locally) to survive and  emerge from this.

  • We are somewhat pessimistic about the future

Thwarted ambitions and a perceived suppression of opportunities (through social engagement) has deadened our joie de vivre. We are fearful that the pandemic will always be here and our good health compromised.

  • Concerned for our families we are reaching out to them. We have the technology, we have the time, and appreciate our families more – for now.

Empty social diaries give us more time to spend on (and think about) our nearest and dearest. We are stepping up, more giving and caring. 

  • When this is over we expect to spend less on going out and making big purchases.

After a year of not going out we are re-evaluating how we spend our money and realising we can live more cheaply.

  • Positives: We have had more time to think, and to consider our values in relation to community, our time, and what we spend our money on.

With longstanding brands disappearing and ‘shopping’ mainly about essentials the retail world is changing – and we are part of that change. 

  • There is massive support and appreciation for the NHS

We are forever indebted to the sheer professionalism and effort of all the individuals who make up the NHS

  • Clear recognition that the elderly and students have been affected the most by the pandemic

Lost generations missing out on the precious, quality life experiences

  • A Covid-free future? Concerns about flying and Covid safety in other countries. Staycations are here to stay.

There remains a lingering nervousness of people, places, events (until we know otherwise).

Returning to some sense of ‘normal’ life is not going to happen overnight. 

Covid has taken a toll on all of us (emotionally and physically). 

And so, beyond the collection of health-related data,  statistics and science-based evidence, it is absolutely vital that wider insights are gathered and analysed so that we learn from this experience.  

The Museum of the Homes collection  Stories of Home Life Under Lockdown are contributions sent in by people about their own home-based experiences of lockdown. That is, how life is for them and how they spend their time. It is a valuable insight into what people are going through – some positive, some not – but more than that, this will prove to be a valuable archive.

People are at the heart of the well-being of our community and society, but they are also central to re-building economic growth and stability.  Being aware, and being sensitive, to their experiences (past and future) enables better decision-making.

When we look to the future… it needs to be with people in mind. 

Every country deals with the pandemic in its own way, but it is primarily a very personal experience. Living through this period of our lives affects not only our ( short-term) mood, aspirations, ambitions and opportunities.

Every story featured in  Anyone at Home,  represents not just a personal lifestage but also a place in time. Covid is just one part of that experience. But, we can see that right now it is affecting what people can do – and that affects what they can do next.

  • Young professionals are finding they at a point where they cannot move forward. On hold: their wanderlust, their jobs and their plans for the future.
  • Reduction and delays in support for carers puts greater pressure on family members – who are already dealing with a difficult situation.
  • New immigrants forging a new life in a new country are struggling to build their businesses and interact with the community
  • With everything suddenly going online teachers have had to make radical, intrusive adjustments to their personal space.
  • People working from home find they are working longer hours and greatly miss the social aspect of work.
  • Bereavement brings a sudden adjustment to a new life stage when people are cut off from social contact.

What people experience today, and what matters to them most, will shift and change. But, what people say today, may be very different tomorrow – even if their life (outwardly) has not changed.

With time, there will be life post-Covid,  and people’s lives will move on into another lifestage.

Looking back on this time, there may be things that they/we will remember – but there will be a lot that they/we will forget.

These stories are not just about appreciating what we are living through now – but for when we come out the other end.

Follow Nuala Rooney:

I am designer, educator and researcher with 25 years teaching/research experience delivering human-centred insights across the social/spatial sphere. My passion lies in exploring people's personal relationships with space across different life stages: design as lived experience.

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