Dimensions of age and aging in Toronto: An inter-decade socio-ecological analysis
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The aging of global populations long forecasted by demographers, governments, and other public and private actors is now rapidly being realized in many countries around the world, particularly in advanced, industrial economies like Canada. Driving this population aging are members of the Baby Boomer generation, a group larger and in many ways more socially influential than preceding birth cohorts, that are now entering life’s later stages and (if social theorists are correct) redefining concepts of older adulthood we currently rely on to plan for the aged. However, the portended impacts of this aging and proposed policy responses largely remain focused at the national/provincial level, with scant attention paid to how the aging of community and neighbourhood populations will occur and how aging will impact these local spaces. Only in recent years have researchers seriously attempted to understand how age and aging overlap the other complex forces that structure urban space and influence how neighbourhoods change. Drawing on theories of social ecology, this thesis assesses the roles age and aging play in urban structure and changes processes, using perspectives of life stage and generation to discern how the aging of Baby Boomers is enmeshed therein. Using the City of Toronto, Canada as study area, this research employs factorial analysis – here, principal component analysis – on a sample of 468 Toronto neighbourhoods for which a comprehensive dataset of social and spatial measures, with an emphasis on age, is created for the years 1996, 2006, and 2016 and for the decades 1996 to 2006 and 2006 to 2016. A set of components are generated for each year and period to serve as measures of dimensions which underlie how these measures relate e.g., how age and aging relate to Toronto’s other social and spatial elements; importantly, these components are also mapped to reveal of how different parts of Toronto reflect the conceptual constructs depicted. These sets of components and their spatial patterning are then assessed for their analytical import, focusing on where and how age and aging overlap other elements of Toronto’s urban social ecology. Findings reveal that while Toronto continues to be primarily organized by socioeconomics that are heavily inflected by ethnic and immigrant status, age still plays a vital role structuring the city’s social ecology, a role more complex than foundational theories account for, even if these are useful for understanding how the aging of residents interacts with neighbourhoods’ other social and spatial elements. Further and in terms of how Toronto changes, while other social elements appear to crystalize, or remain stable between years, resident aging takes a more prominent role defining the changes Toronto’s neighbourhoods are undergoing. As for where Baby Boomers factor into this, while the earliest-born half of the generation follows a similar trajectory as preceding generations in entering older age, the younger half of the generation diverges from this trajectory and thus from established norms of life’s later stages. Moving forward, it seems age and aging are becoming a more definitive a factor in the structuring of urban environments like Toronto and that concepts of life stage and generation, that have been developed more concretely in other research disciplines, will be crucial for continuing to unravel the complex ways in which demography interweaves itself into urban social ecology.
Cite this version of the work
Brayden Wilson (2023). Dimensions of age and aging in Toronto: An inter-decade socio-ecological analysis. UWSpace. http://hdl.handle.net/10012/19076