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Is this seat taken?

If you’re old enough to remember Expo ’67, you’re familiar with Ontario’s unofficial anthem, A Place to Stand, A Place to Grow (Ontari-ari-ari-o!). The song was written for the movie shown at the Ontario Pavilion and every school-aged kid knew the words. But what about Ontario, A Place to Sit? As a rapidly aging boomer, I am concerned Ontario has taken the song literally. Ontario is a place to stand but there is no place to sit down. Have you tried to find a bench lately? Anyone who shops with a spouse or children, or travelled with an aging parent knows what I am talking about. Ontario has legislation regarding accessibility issues, but it does nothing to help able-bodied folks who just need a place to sit down and rest once in a while on their journey along main street, in a mall, or at the airport. Walking several blocks is not a problem for a young person, but it can be for a boomer with shopping bags or a senior with a bad heart. Without resting spots, walking is discouraged. Most people drive a half block to get from place to place. This is not a healthy solution for people or the environment. There are good reasons why benches are disappearing. It starts with loitering. Mall owners don’t want a bunch of seniors hanging around if they aren’t buying jeans or cell phones. They don’t want teens hanging out for different reasons. All kinds of undesirable people sit on city streets and park benches. First it is panhandlers. Eventually drug dealers and hookers start using them as their offices. Homeless people turn the benches into their homes. There goes the neighbourhood. The quick-and-easy solution is to get rid of benches. This does not make sense in a province with a population that grows older every day. Ontario’s senior population is expected to double to nearly 4.1 million within 25 years and most of us will not be in shape to walk a marathon. The citizens and business owners who toiled for several years to have benches installed on Durham St. downtown in order to make it walkable and more welcoming, should be applauded along with private and corporate sponsors who supported the program. They want to take back the sidewalks and streets from the cars and spoilers, and return it to us, the common walking folk. In my opinion, they are thinking ahead.

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