Cities for Mothers
I know I usually write to you with a slight math inclination, but today was Mother’s Day, and it got me thinking about… oh, what do you call those… ah yes, feelings! [ ♫ Nothing more than fee-lings… ♫ ]
A little background.
One of the coolest things I find about my neighbourhood is the variety of people that live here. Families, yes, but also couples and single people, young and old people, renters and homeowners, doctors and baristas, retirees and homemakers. People from all walks of life, and in all stages of life.
It’s a really great place to raise a family. But also an equally great place to spend your golden years. [ ♫ gold whop whop whop ♫ ]
And so that’s why my wife and I choose to raise our family here. It’s also why my mother has chosen to spend her golden years here, in a house just a few short blocks away from ours. [Extra bonus: my dad lives in that house too, but since this is Mother’s Day, let’s just focus on mom for now. We can talk about dad in June.]
I gotta tell you, it’s pretty awesome. Babysitting nearby when we need it, helping each other out with different projects, dropping in on each other for coffee. Or beer. [Hey, it’s 11am somewhere, says the retired person!]
And it’s really great for our kids too. Being able to walk to Grandma’s to help her with gardening, stopping in for a popsicle on the way home from the park, having Grandma pop by just to see if anyone wants to come for a walk to the bakery with her. I love all of it, and so do my kids.
And while I’m sure my mother thoroughly enjoys all of that as well, I am also sure that my kids and I are not the epicenter of her universe.
My mom’s got a lot going on. [Much like Stacey’s mom, I hear.]
She’s got appointments, she plays curling, pickleball and goes to the gym, she shops and runs errands, she visits friends and family. Plus, I don’t hold the monopoly on her grandkids.
I know, sounds like a lot of people’s moms.
Except that my mom doesn’t drive.
It’s not that she can’t. She just doesn’t. And so she needs to be able to do all those things either by walking, biking or using public transit.
Luckily, like I’ve talked about before, that’s completely possible in our neighbourhood. You can meet a lot of needs within a five- or ten-minute walk from here.
It’s also not perfect, because as I’ve also mentioned before, walking down Henderson is just plain gross. And dangerous.
And so luckily for those times, my dad still drives. At least for now.
Because according to AAA, fatality rates for older drivers are 17 times higher than those of 25-64 year olds. [Whoa, look at that! There ARE numbers in here!]
Per mile traveled, fatal crashes increase beginning at age 75 and rise sharply after age 80. This is mainly due to increased risk of injury and medical complications, rather than an increased tendency to get into crashes.— American Automobile Association
And that’s about when I started thinking about other Winnipeggers’ moms…
Because, you see, when my dad finally stops driving, my mom will be OK. We live in a neighbourhood where you can still have an active, independent life without a car. She’ll still be able to get to pickleball and dentist’s appointments and the bakery and the pharmacy.
In fact, our neighbour across the street lived there independently well into her 90s.
But when I look at where a lot of Winnipeggers’ mothers (and grandmothers) live in our city, it’s hard not to ask what’s going to happen when they can no longer drive themselves or be driven by their partners?
What will happen to their quality of life?
And that’s an important question to be asking, because this year, the oldest Baby Boomers will be turning 74. It’s just a (short) matter of time before a lot of them can’t or won’t drive.
But giving up on driving shouldn’t mean having to give up on living.
We can build our city with an eye towards compact, walkable, mixed-use neighbourhoods. We can build safe and abundant bike infrastructure, filled with omafiets on their way to pickleball. We can invest in frequent, affordable, accessible public transit.
And more and more, it’s the Baby Boomers, not the Millennials, who are asking for those things. [Not surprisingly.]
So what kind of city do you want for YOUR mother? One that leaves her isolated and dependent without a car? Or one that lets her live a full, meaningful and independent life regardless of whether she has a car or not?
And here’s the bonus: making our city easier and friendlier for our aging mothers (the ones who birthed us, and fed and clothed us, and put up with us as insufferable teenagers) also makes it a city that is easier and friendlier for the rest of us (not to mention financially solvent!).
We often talk about the kind of world we are building for our children. But just as important is the one we have built for our mothers.
Don’t our moms deserve better? I know mine does.
Love, [OK, one last one.]