More Toronto residents living isolated lives: report

The latest quality of life study reveals a growing number of households made up of one person. Don Mitchell / Global News Radio 640 Toronto

New data from a foundation that studies the quality of life in Toronto suggests more and more residents are engaging in isolated lives.

“We have more people living alone than any other household type in the city,” said Sean Meagher, executive director for Social Planning Toronto and co-author of the Vital Signs report.

“There’s fewer mixed-income neighbourhoods, middle-income neighbourhoods, resulting in more types of isolation than ever before.”

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The Toronto Foundation’s annual report, which references hundreds of quality-of-life studies and census data, reveals that almost 70,000 homes in Toronto are made up of unrelated people, with lone-parent families making up close to one-third of all families.

Toronto’s senior population is also outnumbering children for the first time, a trend that is expected to create a steady decline in the youth demographic.

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LISTEN: Sean Meagher, executive director of Social Planning Toronto, talks to Global News Radio 640 Toronto

The shift in numbers has been tied to condominium development north of the city’s core, which is changing areas such as Scarborough, North York and Etobicoke. Those developments parallel what’s already seen downtown.

“We’ve seen a lot of growth in the city with a lot of neighbourhoods having condo developments,” Meagher said. “That’s a very different set of social spaces that people have to engage with and those spaces do have a lack of mutual connections.”

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The Vital Signs report points to potential health risks for those living alone. The report references recent independent health studies that associated cardiovascular, immune and cognitive problems with isolation.

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Additionally, health issues can also be compounded by smog and a lack of green spaces in lower-income neighbourhoods.

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Despite Toronto becoming a denser and more vertical city, Meagher said there are a lot of offerings in the changing communities to keep people connected.

“There are fantastic organizations who run seniors programs, youth recreation programs and parks and rec centres,” he said. “We know what tools work, it’s just a question of having enough of it. They’re now the backyards of lots of people.”

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