The meaning of home
The meaning of home

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The meaning of home

1.2.4 Places and spaces as resources

Attachment to places can be a resource within care relationships, especially where people have a shared history of attachment to places. An older couple may have experienced the ups and downs of moving between places together for much of their lives. Or a daughter may be caring for her mother in the home where she was born and brought up. A shared understanding of the home environment and the support which may be available locally can be invaluable in developing a care relationship. Such knowledge becomes a resource for care. Take, for example, the case of Mr and Mrs Bright.

Activity 3: Housing histories

Pauline Bright lives with her husband, Alan, in a semi-detached house on a large estate in Bletchley. They are both in their 70s. In 1994 Mr Bright began to develop a dementing illness and Mrs Bright has been the principal carer, although she now shares the care with a number of different formal carers. Here Mrs Bright is talking about the place and the house they live in.

Read through the extract below. Think about the different ways Mr and Mrs Bright are attached to the place and the house they live in and note down at least two important factors.

We came here in 1956, that's 40 years ago. We were living in a flat in London, in somebody's house, and it was quite comfortable, but it was going to be demolished - you know as part of London being sorted out after the war. Also we had two small children and we were going to have a third, so that was one of the reasons why we needed a bit more room. And also the house was going with the job, my husband is an engineer, and there was a lot of small engineering firms opening up here and there was one particularly good one. All the people in this road were employed in engineering, so we were very much all of a muchness. They said that in this particular road that these 12 houses were reserved for people with breathing problems because it was supposed to be healthy. They came and vetted us first and I had a history of breathing problems. I've always felt very healthy here.

The schools were new, so that's why we knew it so well because we all took our children to school. We were all very much into each other's families although we weren't all the sort of neighbours that pop in and out but we knew each other's failures and successes, particularly the children. It's a good place. It's certainly turned up trumps now because of all our problems. They're all grandparents now and we've seen them come and be carted away in a hearse, you know, and all the grandchildren coming is a wonderful feeling.

I was a secretary before I married and then I was 17 years at home with the children, and then all of a sudden they wanted teachers in the 50s and 60s. There was a teachers’ training college here and they were asking for people who were interested, so off I went to college, which was absolutely superb. My husband was – I asked him first – he was keen and supportive and so, after two years in college, I taught up here for 17 years. Seventeen seems to be in my mind rather a lot, doesn't it.

[Later] When we could buy houses we went around looking for what we could afford and we always came back to this one. It's east and west facing so you get the sun and also the south sun as it comes around. If you can imagine it, it's sunny all the time, all the time. It's convenient, as you can see the furniture hasn't changed much, it's lovely, it's good, everybody loves their home here. They've all left home but they all come back and squash into it somehow and the garden's just about the right size, and it's been good on and off, a few horrible things happening to everybody.

Discussion

For Mrs Bright there is a long association with place and a strong sense of attachment to and familiarity with this particular neighbourhood. As a place they originally came because of employment but they have been a part of the development of a neighbourhood which seems to go beyond just place to engender a sense of belonging and community spirit. It is a place of people, of families where the children all went to school together, and where people continue to offer each other support.

Part of this familiarity is born of the length of time they and many of their neighbours have lived in one place. They have also been of similar ages and part of similar households and this has meant that they have shared common activities. So they have developed social relationships.

Their house itself is also a place to which they are attached. It is talked about with affection – it's lovely, it's good. It has also been a healthy environment. Mrs Bright says ‘everybody loves their home here. They've all left home but they all come back and squash into it somehow’. So the home also means people as well as the physical environment.

Where people live and who people live with are dependent on a myriad of factors. These factors combine personal characteristics and circumstances with the opportunities and choices offered in any locality which themselves will be influenced by national, social and economic policies. There will always be a wider political environment to add to the immediate environment of the individual and their family. Mrs Bright's account is a good example of how the physical, social and psychological environment are all intertwined.

To summarise then, attachment to place is a concept that brings a number of factors together and may involve:

  • attachments to buildings, spaces, objects

  • places that vary in scale, specificity and tangibility

  • people (individuals, groups, and cultures)

  • social relationships

  • time.

(Adapted from Low and Altman, 1992, p. 8)

Key points

  • Personalising space is a way of saying something about self-identity.

  • Different understandings of group identity can affect the way people think about home and home area.

  • Understanding more about the shared histories of places and spaces may be important in understanding the resources which are available to any caring relationship.

  • The environment can become a resource for caring.

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