Active Seniors

The misnomer of “living rooms”

There are common names that we use to describe areas of a house or a unit such as a kitchen, bedroom and dining room. However one of the rooms in our dwellings seems to have been given a name that inaccurately reflects its purpose – the living room.

Let’s picture a typical living room. A lounge or two, a coffee table and a television. I don’t know about you but to me none of these items make me think this is a living room unless of course we are “living” a sedentary lifestyle.

People spend large amounts of time in their living rooms doing a variety of things – such as watching TV or reading – that mostly involve staying in the one position…. sitting. What’s often worse is that we sit in low, unsupportive lounges that almost always negatively affect our posture. While they feel comfortable at the time, lounge chairs encourage us to round the spine and can be a major contributor to lower back pain.

People in western societies spend an average of 5-10 hours a day watching television. This not only means 5-10 hours of sitting, but has other health implications as well. Two of the most notable health effects, aside from the complications associated with a sedentary lifestyle, are the effects on sleep and the social isolation experienced. 

Our eyes respond to the changes in natural light to induce a state of either wakefulness or sleepiness. Television screens emit bright lights and in particular blue light which stimulates the retina in the eye and stops our body from releasing melatonin, the hormone responsible for making us feel sleepy. Watching television at night time when our body should be preparing for sleep often causes disrupted sleep patterns which can lead to premature ageing.

Watching a television program involves little if any interaction with other people. Our brains thrive on social interaction which requires us not only to process information but also to respond accordingly. This interaction is also important to improve our mood which significantly contributes to our health and wellbeing.

What should a living room be? Something that inspires us to maximise our interactions with the environment and other people through movement and expressions of thought, be it through conversation or art. To me, a living room is in fact not a room at all. What would your ideal “living” room or space include?

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