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Making Cities Places For the Young and the Aging

As in many cities, Montreal has a need to create neighborhoods in which residents are able to age in place. Many of Montreal's suburban areas are places where families settle in, children grow up, and parents continue to live their lives until they become elderly. Unfortunately, this environment may become difficult to those entering old age due to its isolation from important services, car dependence, and considerable home maintenance requirements.

A senior's resident in suburban Montreal

This reality highlights the importance of dense urban environments. While young couples can maintain a large suburban home and rely on their automobile for their mobility, some elderly people have trouble driving, and in some cases are unable to drive. In this case, it is crucial that neighbourhoods be walkable, and that they offer public transit options that are reliable and frequent, as well as safe and comfortable. For one thing, public transit should be accessible by wheelchair.

Montreal is not perfect for the elderly either. Public transit is not easy to maneuver given decreased mobility – and one cannot always get a seat on the metro or the bus. Furthermore, Montreal is famous for its 3-story walk-ups. Acceptable for a young couple, the steep and outdoor stairs of these apartment buildings are treacherous for some elderly residents.


3-storey walk-up in Montreal

These elderly individuals or couples need to live in a space that is safe for them in addition to being in the same neighbourhood they have been a part of most of their adult lives. The transition to a new living space is difficult for anyone, and it is preferable that aging residents be able to continue to patronize the same stores and institutions they have become familiar with.

There is an organization in Toronto, Canada that emphasizes the importance of urban design for children and the elderly – called 8-80 cities. The idea is that a city should be designed to meet the needs of those under the age of 8 and those over the age of 80. Ideally, urban planners will design our cities with these vulnerable age groups in mind.

What do you think we can do to make the city a more comfortable and safe place for people of all ages?

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