RGS-IBG Annual International Conference 2017


117 Home futures: towards a critical feminist geography of housing, ageing and health (2)
Affiliation Geographies of Health and Wellbeing Research Group
Gender and Feminist Geographies Research Group
Convenor(s) Melissa Fernández Arrigoitia (Lancaster University, UK)
Karen West (Aston University, UK)
Sheila Peace (The Open University, UK)
Chair(s) Melissa Fernández Arrigoitia (Lancaster University, UK)
Timetable Wednesday 30 August 2017, Session 4 (16:50 - 18:30)
Session abstract Home is a complex topic: a social, physical and emotional environment supportive of personal identity that may mitigate isolation and loneliness associated with significant physical and mental health risks in older age. As societies around the world face unprecedented social, economic and political pressures alongside socio-demographic transformations, housing models are evolving and some are proposing citizen-led innovations in social and material design that challenge mainstream ways of doing/living, including women-only senior groups. By providing alternatives to traditional housing development practices and to living alone, these modes of action and living may enhance individual and collective well-being while ageing in place by facilitating forms of mutual-care and companionship alongside independence, empowerment and engagement. They may also generate new power asymetries or exclusions. These developments are not limited to the Global North and span a range of spatial scales and cultural practices. The critical theoretical and empirical questions they raise are only beginning to be explored- and in this session, we want to bring some of these strands of thought together.

Drawing on the growth in both senior and inter-generational cohousing (and other collaborative housing) movements in Europe and internationally, this session is interested in how different groups of people, including women-only groups, might actively decolonize housing and ageing knowledges by taking matters of personal and collective concern over the future of residential environments into their own hands. We are interested in the ways in which alternative arrangements of home space and performances of age might disrupt, (and/or reproduce) hegemonic understandings of needs in relation to housing, health and wellbeing in later life.

The ‘Home’ can include socio-technical, material, psychosocial, emotional and geo-political approaches. Contributions will include work at at the intersections of: human geographical approaches to practices, conceptualizations and meanings of urban home futures; psychosocial approaches to ageing and homes; feminist and STS-approaches to care, mutual-aid and social reproduction in/through home; socio-material approaches to environmental gerontology, health and well-being; and feminist geopolitics of the home.
Linked Sessions Home futures: towards a critical feminist geography of housing, ageing and health (1)
Contact the conference organisers to request a change to session or paper details: AC2017@rgs.org
Home futures for Millennials living with their parents in Toronto
Nancy Worth (McMaster University, Canada)
Nearly half of all twentysomethings in Ontario, Canada live with their parents (Statistics Canada, 2011). Within this number, many young adults living with parents have previously lived on their own—often called ‘boomerang kids’. While there is an emerging statistical picture about the lives of Canadian millennials, co-residence with parents— and its impact on millennial wellbeing is not well understood. This paper examines co-residence with parents using results from the GenY at Home project: The survey portion of GenY at Home links co-residence to reasons of both necessity (including student debt, labour market precarity and an inaccessible housing market) and choice (cultural norms and family support). A linked set of narrative interviews takes the analysis further, examining the values and attitudes that Canadian millennials who live with their parents have about ‘home’. Researching co-residence, the home and well-being focuses on intimate, family life while recognizing how much where and how we live impacts both our lives beyond the home as well as our sense of self. This paper will challenge the ‘failure to launch’ trope that often circulates in popular culture, instead aiming to provide a nuanced understanding about home futures around two key findings. 1) Living with parents can both harm and support well-being, especially through discussions of what it means to be an adult in precarious times 2) For many young adults, co-residence is bound up in expectations and negotiations of both current and future possible homes.
Meanings of home for older couples and spouse caregivers
Manik Gopinath (The Open University, UK)
Caroline Holland (The Open University, UK)
Sheila Peace (The Open University, UK)
Meanings of home in the context of ageing, place and care have received attention from mainstream and critical perspectives. Meanings and experiences of home for older couples in the context of one partner having a long-term illness and for spousal caregivers whose partners relocate to care homes remain under explored. Paying attention to older couples and their experiences of place and care is relevant given that we are living in a time of greater coupledom. The United Kingdom census data (2011) indicates an increase in the percentage of married couples aged 65 and over from 51 percent to 54 percent and of cohabiting couples from 1.6 percent to 2.8 percent between 2001- 2011. 

This paper presents a literature review to develop understanding of older couples’ experiences and meanings of home within the context of dementia. Our focus on dementia is twofold. First, as research indicates living with dementia is unique in that it has cognitive dimensions, is prolonged and yet progressive. It generates distinctive caregiving-receiving demands, can extend over several years and, hence, moves to care settings are common at some stage. Secondly, research highlights that spouses are the primary caregivers for persons with dementia. We are interested in exploring the:

a) Impact of dementia on older couples’ experiences of home and how experiences of home influence dementia navigation;

b) Impact of spouse’s placement on meanings of home for the spousal caregiver;

Our overall purpose is to conceptualise meanings and experiences of home that give due consideration to ‘couplehood’ and ‘marital relationships’
Disabling spaces and spatial strategies: exploring the home geographies of people with dementia and their carers
Phevos Kallitsis (University of Portsmouth, UK)
Dia Soilemezi (University of Portsmouth, UK)
Focusing on the home environment of 13 family co-resident carers in the wider area of Portsmouth (UK), this paper aims to examine the domestic space and the environs, analysing their impact on the well-being of all the inhabitants. The majority of people with dementia stay at home, and them remaining within a familiar environment plays an important role; however the majority of research focuses in care homes, as the home is an unpredictable environment (Gitlin, 2003). Research has examined different residential designs that could accommodate people with dementia, in an effort to respond to the need of extending to the maximum they stay of the patient within a familiar environment. There is need for living environments that encourage independence, compensate for difficulties, while in tandem supporting the family carer. In deciding where is the best place to age, there is no one-size-fits-all solution and changes are not always bad as they may offer opportunities to improve the person-environment transactions (Golant, 2015).

Following the same line of work the paper examines the lived spatial experience and the mechanisms applied by family carers in order to overcome the obstacles imposed by design. The analysis maps the spatial experiences through a series of adjacency diagrams. A main issue that comes out of the analysis is the lack of flexible dwellings, both within the interior space, as well as their connection with the outside, putting carers into the dilemma between moving to a more supportive residence or remaining within a familiar space for their relatives. The paper moves on into examining architectural alternatives on residential design and neighbourhood planning. With the vast majority of of the interviewees being women, the paper focuses into the way critical feminist texts from the ‘80s and the ‘90s (Weisman, 1992, Hayden, 1981, Torre and Ahrentzen, 1992), as well as projects by female practices like Matrix and WDS, which have raised the issues of space for child-care and different bodies; design principles that can support caring for the third age. This offers the opportunity to urban and spatial designers to understand those issues and set up standards and provide inventive solutions to the complexity of ageing and dementia-friendly housing.
Future proofing the home, or aging, posthuman style
Wanda Katja Liebermann (Florida Atlantic University, USA)
This paper will examine the normative vision of aging produced by “smart home” research developed at US universities. Smart homes are so-called “sentient” home test environments developed by computer scientists and social scientists to create networks of monitoring, persuading, and other assistive technologies to enable older and disabled people to live independently at home. Early smart home technology targeted a consumer desiring remote and integrated control of home security, entertainment, and environmental comfort. However, with economic and physical structures unprepared to deal with a rapidly aging population and longer life spans, researchers are working on assistive smart home technologies to mitigate the problem of expensive caregiver and nursing home care.

Drawing primarily on the university projects’ websites and publications, and combining architectural theory, and critical feminist and disability studies ideas, I will explore three main questions about assistive smart homes: What social and spatial futures are being foreclosed? Whom does the smart home grant agency? In what ways does the smart home extend the logics of austerity to human care. I argue that, though smart home rhetoric enlists “house of tomorrow” imagery, it inverts relations between people and things, and trades fantastical for mundane powers. Its technologically mediated relationships produce new juxtapositions of intimacy and abstraction, where a child receives smart watch alerts about his mother’s toileting, and, perhaps more troubling, insurance companies watch what she eats. This raises anew Orit Halpern’s question about what it means to tie “the management of life so tightly to computational and digital media.”