You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘Urban Isolation’ tag.

   I think it is uncontroversial to say that we are hardwired to be social animals.  Yet, why do we design our cities and spaces to make interaction and social contact less affable and easy to access?

 

“Urban loneliness is a virtual pandemic. Even though there have never been as many cities across the world as there are right now with such high populations, urban loneliness carries with it huge social, medical and financial consequences. Why are cities the new capitals of isolation? 

“Ideas contributor Tom Jokinen believes the design of urban centres may actually be the cause of urban isolation. Yet they may also contain the ingredients for a more integrated social landscape. 

It’s hard to believe that anyone could be lonely in the city, surrounded by millions of people. But urban loneliness is real, and it’s at the centre of a health epidemic.

According to Dr. Vivek Murthy, former United States Surgeon General under President Obama, loneliness can lead to increased risks for heart disease, anxiety, depression and dementia: in stark terms it is the same as smoking fifteen cigarettes a day.”

 

“Yet the idea of solitude and isolation is central to the culture of the city. Think of the paintings of Edward Hopper depicting nighthawks at the diner. His realist paintings are actually about something more abstract: what it’s like to be alone in a city of millions. Eye contact is never made in a Hopper painting — and the people in his paintings look like the last survivors of some urban catastrophe — one that’s been a long time coming.

In 1920, only 5 per cent of Americans lived alone. By 2016, that number was 27 per cent, and most of the growth of solo living has been in the cities.

A study by the Engaged City Task Force in Vancouver asked people to report the biggest problem facing that city. The result was surprising: they might have said homelessness, or the opioid epidemic. But the number one problem in Vancouver according to residents was urban loneliness.”

 

Who I see suffering the most from loneliness is the elderly.  As we grow older our world shrinks.  Mobility goes down and correspondingly contact with the outside world also declines.  Friends begin to die off as disease and accidents of life take their toll.  The golden years are rarely golden for many senior citizens.  What contact is available from the outside world comes through the television (and sometimes the radio).  The lonely context the elderly inhabit is a recipe for poor physical and mental health outcomes.

“What is it about cities that makes us so lonely? Just look up. The urban environment, with its tall glass towers of one-bedroom and studio condos is built for loneliness, it’s designed to cut people off from each other.

But things may be changing: new ideas like co-housing, where families live together, mean the city itself could become less forbidding. But is it enough to face down an epidemic?”

Not changing fast enough. These solutions need to have been started decades ago.  Our society is now paying the price for not designing our cities around the idea that we need social contact for our mental and physical health.  The quotes are from the preface to an radio broadcast on CBC called Ideas.  The show on loneliness is quite interesting, I recommend going to page and giving it a listen.

 

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