The growing need to accommodate seniors now

By Al Ruggero

As the tributes continued to pour in for the Queen following her death, many noted the legacy of her long service and dedication as a sovereign as well as a role model. Her passing also draws to our attention how we view and accommodate the role and contribution of our seniors as a vital part of our social fabric.

Seniors represent the fastest-growing segment of our population. Their roles, issues, and challenges will be more critical in the years ahead. During the COVID-19 pandemic, unprecedented numbers of people left the workforce, including seniors, with the highest rates of retirement ever. The unanticipated surge in retirements and early retirements crossed all sectors of employment including the private and public sectors. This trend does not bode well as we face growing labour and skills shortages with growing employment dislocations.

In response, we need to invest in vital infrastructure and supports that sustain our aging workforce and allow them greater independence, mobility, and control over their futures (I confess to a particular self-interest as I recently joined the ranks of seniors).

Like the rest of us who work in urban environments, traffic congestion, access to services, and quality of life are significant determinants for our future, including the opportunities and choices for work, leisure, and living.

Our neighborhoods are changing rapidly, as are our priorities for inclusion in the public realm designs to better accommodate a greater diversity of users. We welcome wider sidewalks, additional street furnishing (such as benches and lighting), accessibility standards, more significant mobility choices, and transportation methods that improve our lives. Yet, these imperatives in our road networks can sometimes clash in real-life situations. Bike lanes, pedestrian crossings, vehicle sizes, and purposes can clash under the wrong circumstances. Many of these conflicts can be resolved with proper planning and evidence-based decisions.

Like the Vision Zero Plan, solutions are sometimes self-evident, possibly staring us in the face. Seniors appear the most vulnerable and account for the greatest number of pedestrian casualties. The City’s Vision Zero Plan to reduce traffic-related fatalities and serious injuries on Toronto’s streets is a good start, but needs greater promotion among our residents, drivers and our service providers that include our transit operators and builders. An essential part of this plan relates to visibility and proper sightline designs. One questionable design decision that should be addressed is to have the new Light Rail Vehicles - that will soon ride the rails of Metrolinx’s Finch West LRT - painted stark black on its front façade.

Al Ruggero is Project Manager at the Emery Village BIA. He can be reached at 416-744-7242 or: