Best places to retire: SW Ontario

The most senior-friendly towns and cities west of Toronto

Southwestern Ontario is rife with small towns, Great Lakes' coast villages and some of the mildest weather in all of Canada – in addition to all the best of living that you expect from Canada. So when it's time to retire here, which is the perfect place? Comfort Life surveys sources and interviews the people living here to find where are the best places to live and retire, and why the people who retire in those places love where they live. Our sources include the annual survey by MoneySense, a variety of Ontario newspapers and the voices of the people who live here.

Here's our take on the best places to live in Southwestern Ontario:

  1. Waterloo, Ont

    The number of international awards Waterloo has won is impressive enough. In 2007, it was named the world's smartest city by the Intelligent Community Forum (IFC) and is never far out of top spot on subsequent annual lists. Waterloo boasts two top universities, a wealth of greenspace, fun downtown core and a variety of other features. The region focuses on sustainable growth. An under-construction light rail transit (LRT) right through the heart of Kitchener-Waterloo is scheduled to be completed by 2018. It's also the highest ranked Southwestern Ontario city in MoneySense's list of Best Places to Live, ranked 10th overall1 across Canada. Waterloo has low unemployment, healthy population growth and a high household net worth over $600,000. Among other notable stats, 8.5% of the region's population is employed in health care. Retiring here is as wise as living here. Attractions as varied as St. Jacob's Market, Elora Gorge and downtown Toronto are all within an hour of Waterloo. Learn more about retirement in Waterloo.

    Check out spectacular 55-plus communities in Waterloo and area.

  2. Stratford, Ont

    Stratford and area is some of the most perfectly peaceful places to settle in all Ontario. The beautiful Avon River, the Stratford Festival and a manageable cost of living make this a great place to settle into retirement. The proximity to Lake Huron and the easy drive to Toronto area are just two more factors that make this the 15th best place to live in Canada1 and second overall in Southwestern Ontario. (By the way, it was 7th overall in Canada, in 2015). Far from typical, Stratford and area residents "celebrate diversity," as one resident puts it. "Our personal stories are all a little different, to be sure. But in the end, in our community, people solve differences amongst themselves and learn from each other."

    Check out retirement in Stratford, Ontario, including retirement residences and several superb active lifestyle communities nearby.

  3. London, Ont

    London's a superb mid-size city with an active nightlife, modest real estate costs and reasonable property tax averages (below $2000 annually). A decreasing crime rate (dropped by 17% since 2012), exceptional access to health care (including renowned hospitals) and the beautiful campus for the University of Western Ontario are just some of the other features that make London great. It's ranked as the 30th overall best place to live in Canada1.

    Ron Campbell moved into a London area adult lifestyle community, and he and his wife love the quality of life here. "This is an extremely good area to live in. We have recommended this community to friends... It is by far the nicest community we have ever lived in." 

    If you are 55 and older, there are a number of spectacular active lifestyle communities in London and area. 

    London retirement homes have a superb reputation for bringing together the very best in seniors' care and amenities.

  4. Collingwood

    If you surveyed the population of Ontario and asked people their favourite summer beach destination, Collingwood and Wasaga Beach will almost certainly win every poll. There may be no need for such a poll because the choice is obvious. Torontonians crowd Wasaga Beach every long weekend, Georgian Bay is home to some of the most pleasant sailing waters in all of Canada, and the surrounding area has an abundance of natural beauty, from Lion's Head to Christian Island and many points in between. In winter, nearby Blue Mountain is probably the province's top ski destination.

    As a place to live (not just visit, not just retire in), Collingwood takes the #39 spot overall in Canada1. It's our easy choice for a top spot among best places to retire in southwestern Ontario.

    Find superb active lifestyle communities in Collingwood and area.

  5. Sarnia, Ontario (and area)

    We know Sarnia is further down the list, slipping yearly2, and suffering from something of an inferiority complex3; the city itself is actually ranked #144 overall on the list of Best Places to Live1. However, there is proximity to Lake Huron, spectacular nearby beaches and legendary nearby destinations that include Bright's Grove and Grand Bend. Sarnia and its general area definitely deserves recognition as one of the best places to live in Southwestern Ontario. There's also cross-border shopping and attractions, and easy proximity to the 402, making it a half hour drive to London.

    Find superb active lifestyle communities near Sarnia.

  6. Tillsonburg, Ontario

    Listed #123 on Canada's overall list of best places to live, Tillsonburg is a charming, quiet, peaceful little town, with a passell of other similar peaceful towns nearby. It's close to Lake Erie and spectacular beaches like Turkey Point and Long Point. As you would expect, it has an extremely low crime rate (having decreased 26% in the last three years), low property taxes, and just enough local activity to keep life interesting. And it's stable. It is a great place to retire. 

    Check out excellent places to retire in Tillsonburg and area.

  7. Brantford, Ontario

    Brantford is listed as #125 on the overall best places to live in Canada. There's a lot of great parkland in Brantford. It has some easy proximity to Hamilton and the 403 into Toronto, and the cost of living in Brantford is very easy to take. 

    Brantford retirement homes offer the finest in senior care certainly, but for anyone 55 and older and looking to downsize, there are a number of noteworthy active lifestyle communities near Brantford.

  8. Niagara Falls, Ontario

    Well, then there's Niagara Falls, surprisingly at #152 on the overall list of best places to live in Canada. Why is this world-class destination so low down the list? As noted in an earlier local editorial4, the predominant metrics used to decide best places to retire or live are not focused on "nice place to visit" or spectacular local beauty, but are focused on population growth, unemployment rate, average household income and property tax rates. The area, though, remains a wonderful place, well-worth retiring to. There are spectacular beaches nearby on Lake Erie, cross-border shopping, and easy proximity to the QEW corridor that can take you into Toronto or out to the US. 

    Check out spectacular places to retire near Niagara Falls.

Home care
Consider how home care companies can help you age in place.

Many people use lists like this one as only confirmation of a decision they have already made, or as a blue-sky starting point. Your main consideration will be things like how close you live to family, or other things that are important to you. We also caution you to things like availability of home health care and other services. Finally, learn all you can about projections about real estate in the area, for the next few years, even decades. Many factors come into play beyond what anyone else says is 'best' for you.



Look closer at great retirement locations in SW Ontario

Caroline Place  

118 Market Street, Hamilton, Ontario, L8R 3P9

A gracious and supportive retirement in the heart of Hamilton. Every day is filled with fun and friendship, and delicious chef-prepared meals. Enjoy all that life has offer. Shopping, HPO, Farmer’s Market and Library

Lifestyle Options: Independent Living, Assisted Living

Aberdeen Gardens  

330 Dundurn Street South, Hamilton, Ontario, L8P 4L6

A well established retirement residence located in the cozy part of West Hamilton. Winner of the Reader's Choice Award for best Retirement Residence for 4 consecutive years. You know you're home at Aberdeen Gardens.

Lifestyle Options: Independent Living, Assisted Living

Hygate Active Senior Living  

215 Lexington Road, Waterloo, Ontario, N2K 0H6

Resort-style retirement living in Waterloo. Hygate promotes active senior living with modern décor and amenities. Enjoy daily fitness, activity programs and fine dining. It's next level senior living.

Lifestyle Options: Apartments, Independent Living, Assisted Living

The Village of Glendale Crossing  

3030 Singleton Avenue, London, Ontario, N6L 0B6

A true retirement hub featuring independent Living Apartments with full kitchens, Retirement Apartments, Full Service Retirement suites with walk out patios, Assisted Care, Memory Care and LTC.

Lifestyle Options: Apartments, Independent Living, Assisted Living, Memory Care, Long-term care

The Village of Riverside Glen  

60 Woodlawn Road East, Guelph, Ontario, N1H 8M8

This elegant Guelph retirement home offers a range of care including assisted living and long term care, serviced by a friendly, caring staff.

Lifestyle Options: Assisted Living, Memory Care, Long-term care

The Village at University Gates  

250 Laurelwood Drive, Waterloo, Ontario, N2J 0E2

Now welcoming our Retirement Home Residents to the Village. We offer Waterloo a range of services for today's Senior including Retirement Apartments, Assisted Living, Memory Care and Long Term Care.

Lifestyle Options: Independent Living, Assisted Living, Memory Care, Long-term care

The Village of Winston Park  

695 Block Line Road, Kitchener, Ontario, N2E 3K1

This elegant retirement residence in Kitchener-Waterloo offers a continuum of care from independent living apartments to assisted living, memory care and long-term care.

Lifestyle Options: Independent Living, Assisted Living, Memory Care, Long-term care

The Village of Wentworth Heights  

1620 Upper Wentworth St., Hamilton, Ontario, L9B 2W3

The Village of Wentworth Heights is a full-service retirement living community offering retirement apartments, full-service suites, assisted living and memory care.

Lifestyle Options: Apartments, Independent Living, Assisted Living, Memory Care

The Village of Arbour Trails  

32 Bayberry Drive, Guelph, Ontario, N1G 0C9

Guelph retirement home offers Independent Living, Assisted Living and Memory Care. Includes 24 hour onsite nursing team and medication support within a Village-like setting. It takes a Village to care.

Lifestyle Options: Independent Living, Assisted Living, Memory Care

St. Elizabeth Village  

1 Yates Gate, Hamilton, Ontario, L9B 1T8

St. Elizabeth Village is a place where community comes first. The Village is set on an impressive 114-acre natural oasis of parks and ponds. Enjoy a non-stop slate of social activities in a vibrant, active lifestyle.

Lifestyle Options: Active Living

Oakcrossing Retirement Living  

1238 Oakcrossing Road, London, Ontario, N6H 0K2

Welcome to Oakcrossing Retirement Living, where we have a fresh perspective on senior living. Offering a large variety of studios, one- and two-bedroom suites with both retirement and assisted living services available.

Lifestyle Options: Independent Living, Assisted Living

Sifton - Dorchester Terrace  

143 Byron Ave, Dorchester, Ontario, N0L 1G5

Dorchester Terrace offers area seniors a variety of suite choices, wellness support services, medication administration, housekeeping services, physiotherapy and daily dining in an open restaurant-style dining room.

Lifestyle Options: Independent Living

WaterView Estates by Estates of Niagara  

518 Queenston St, St. Catharines, Ontario, L2R 7K6

WaterView Estates & Wellness Suites, offers a luxurious, vibrant Active Living community along the Welland Canal, steps from walk/bike trails, world class amenities and living options designed to create your best life!

Lifestyle Options: Apartments, Active Living

Sifton - Riverstone  

1961 Shore Rd., London, Ontario, N6K 0K5

Riverstone supports an independent retirement lifestyle in a brand-new community built for you. Choose from retiree apartments, one-floor villa townhomes and retirement suites coming Fall 2023!

Lifestyle Options: Independent Living

Queenston Place Residence  

6440 Valley Way, Niagara Falls, Ontario, L2E 7E3

This Niagara Falls retirement home features local activities and scenery in a luxury environment offering a comfortable lifestyle, care and peace of mind.

Lifestyle Options: Independent Living, Assisted Living

Sifton - Longworth  

600 Longworth Road, London, Ontario, N6K 4X9

Voted London's Best Retirement Residence seven years running! We promote our passion for seniors living well by offering choices for an active, wellness focused lifestyle with the security of knowing help is at hand.

Lifestyle Options: Independent Living, Assisted Living

Parkland Ancaster  

558 Golf Links Rd., Hamilton, Ontario, L9G 4W9

At Parkland Ancaster, we will offer a luxurious, vibrant, social lifestyle in a beautiful safe, premium home. Enjoy upscale amenities, creating a supportive space for you to thrive socially and lead fulfilling lives.

Lifestyle Options: Apartments, Independent Living, Assisted Living, Memory Care

Sifton - Richmond Woods  

200 North Centre Road, London, Ontario, N5X 0B1

A desirable retirement residence in London, Ontario, including 130 suites with extensive amenities designed to provide the ultimate in retirement living. Proud winners of the "Best of London in Retirement Living 2020!"

Lifestyle Options: Independent Living, Assisted Living

Meadowlands - A VIVA Retirement Community  

1248 Mohawk Road, Ancaster, Ontario, L9K 1P5

The number one retirement community in the Ancaster and Hamilton Area. Meadowlands offers personal choice in living accommodations, dining, recreation, social and personal services. Make the most of your retirement years

Lifestyle Options: Independent Living, Assisted Living

Willoughby Manor Retirement Residence  

3584 Bridgewater Street, Niagara Falls, Ontario, L2G 6H1

Our homelike atmosphere sets the tone for our tight-knit high-spirited community. Our dedicated team provides 24 hr care & services including: health, wellness, meals, laundry, housekeeping, safety, security & more.

Lifestyle Options: Independent Living, Assisted Living

Sifton - The Westhill  

25 Westhill Drive, Waterloo, Ontario, N2T 0B6

The Westhill is an inviting atmosphere of new friends and great times, with personalized support services for better living. The Westhill is conveniently located in Waterloo, near The Boardwalk shopping area.

Lifestyle Options: Independent Living, Assisted Living

St. Elizabeth Retirement Residence  

391 Rymal Road West, Hamilton, Ontario, L9B 1V2

St. Elizabeth Retirement Residence, part of St. Elizabeth Village, offers bright suites, chef created meals, and many amenities. Health and wellness is our focus through excellent care while living in a tranquil setting.

Lifestyle Options: Independent Living, Assisted Living

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