Susan Eng on Inclusive Cities: “You have to shape behaviour to succeed in changing attitudes”

The Toronto Star hosted a panel discussion on cities and income disparity last Tuesday evening at the Toronto Reference Library. Columnist Royson James moderated the discussion and asked participants what kind of city do we want to live in?

Susan Eng, CARP VP of Advocacy told the crowd she wanted to live in an Age-Friendly city. As our population ages many older Canadians will flock back to the cities from the Suburbs to enjoy greater proximity to services, and we need to be ready. Cities should be safe and accessible for older residents and this means having more public transit, park benches, public restrooms, better lighting, accessible buildings and affordable housing.

Why should we care about income disparity? Why should we care about belonging? asked Mr. James?

Rahul Bhardwaj, President and CEO of Toronto Community Foundation said we needed to care because: It strikes at the very heart of what we value as Canadians. It starts from a very visceral reaction that says we can do better.

Kevin Stolarick, research director for the Martin Prosperity Institute at the University of Toronto, said the steady decline of North American manufacturing jobs means the city’s economic future lies in people who are “paid to think.” [as reported in the Toronto Star]

Eng challenged this overemphasis on the creative class – which Stolarick defined as including doctors, engineers and designers, not just those who work in the arts as excluding the low wage sectors who could no longer afford to raise their families in the cities. There must be room for the fill spectrum of society, she added.

The same applies to our cities and urban planning. If we design with everyone in mind, including the mobility challenged and seniors, than we truly include everyone.

My philosophy is that first you shape behaviour and through shaping behaviour, you succeed in changing attitudes. When people start caring about public spaces, they start caring about each other. Said Eng.

There you have it, thats the rallying call! Canadians need to start thinking of public spaces as spaces in which everyone can blossom and age gracefully; but wishing for it will not suffice:

To achieve something, your desire for that thing has to be underscored by everything you do in public life. You have to make it a condition of your vote. Concluded Eng.

Keywords: seniors, services