Your life has changed so much in the 15, 20 or 30 years since you bought your family home. Your kids have moved out, some of your values have changed, and you're different. So, what's the best place to live for the person that you are now? Many "best places to retire" lists rely on statistics and figures, like real estate prices, property tax rates, crime rates, and climate data. Those figures and numbers offer a simple way to grade your options. But we all know that numbers never tell the whole story.
With that in mind, Comfort Life compiles input from people who have retired ahead of you, and moved into communities across Canada. You want to know that people love having moved, that the benefits of their new community far outweigh the trouble of change. Below, you’ll find real stories from real people. We think human testimony is as important as numbers and figures.
This list is up-to-date, offering some familiar places as well as some out-of-the-way retirement destinations we think you should know about*. Finding the best is not possible without opening your mind to new possibilities. So here they are, possibilities to dream about: our take on the best places to retire in Canada in 2018.
"Heart of the nation’s capital region"
Signature event: Canadian Tulip Festival, held annually each spring since 1952
Fun fact: The Rideau Canal is the best preserved example of a slackwater canal built in North America. It remains operational along its original line with a majority of the structures from the early nineteenth century still intact.
The nation’s capital is a destination for many retirees for some obvious reasons. It's a great place to settle, to be near family in Ottawa Region, and there’s a wonderful mix of local conveniences and attractions. Parkland and greenspace line the two rivers that flow through the city. Museums and galleries are found throughout, including the Museum of Nature, the National Gallery of Canada, and others. Ottawa was ranked as the #1 best place to live by MoneySense in 2016 (and #2 in 2017). Our national capital is especially noted for healthy real estate values, an array of cultural activities, and easy access to health care.
Ted and Marilyn are one couple who love retirement living in Ottawa. "Everybody we meet here is as happy as we are. Everybody gets along," says Ted. Marilyn chimes in, "We’ve made lots of new friends."
Smaller communities on the outskirts of Ottawa are also worth your consideration. Stittsville offers fast-rising real estate values while still retaining its small town charm. Further out, towns like Carleton Place and Manotick feature the best of country living with proximity to the capital region.
Weather: temperate coastal
Signature attraction: Cypress Provincial Park is home to astonishing hiking and cross-country ski trails. It was also the host to many events from the 2010 Winter Olympics.
Fun fact: West Vancouver Memorial Library lends more books per capita than any other library in Canada.
For good reason, West Van tops our own list of the best places to retire in British Columbia. All of majestic BC is an international destination for retirement, and this District is perfectly situated to sample all that's best about the province. It's removed from the expensive real estate and bustle of Vancouver proper but all that you love about the city is just across the Lion's Gate Bridge. Of course, Stanley Park, Cypress Provincial Park and a wealth of other mountain scenery beckon from nearby. By law, there is no industry allowed in the city. West Vancouver ranks high on sources like MoneySense, due to statistics like low taxes and low crime, but the real test is, how do people like living here?
Mary is one retiree who exclaims about life in West Vancouver: "you can always keep active here… and you can always see the fun in life."
Check out a full list of places to retire in West Vancouver, including places in the similarly highly rated North Vancouver.
Signature event: The Collingwood Elvis Festival, the world’s largest Elvis festival, held every July, since 1994.
Fun fact: Collingwood was incorporated as a town in 1858, nine years before Confederation, and was named after Admiral Cuthbert Collingwood, Lord Nelson’s second in command at the Battle of Trafalgar.
Survey the population of central Ontario about their favourite summer beach destination, and Collingwood and Wasaga Beach will almost certainly win every poll. The fact is that people vote with their feet, anyway, and when they do, the beaches of Georgian Bay are crowded with Ontario sun-worshippers. The bay is also home to some of the most pleasant sailing waters in all of Canada. Don Wilson moved to Balmoral Village, an adult lifestyle community right in town. As he says, “Finding a perfect home, [with everything] we want for now and looking ahead, made the decision to move an easy one.”
The surrounding area has an abundance of natural beauty, from Lion’s Head and Tobermory to Christian Island, and many points in between. In winter, nearby Blue Mountain is a province-wide destination for skiing. It’s our easy choice for a top spot among the best places to retire in Canada.
Find the best places to retire in Collingwood or read about one 55 plus community that's generating a lot of buzz.
"Canada's sunniest city"
Signature event: Calgary Stampede, the world’s largest outdoor event, held annually each July since 1884
Fun fact: The warm wind of Calgary—the chinook—can raise the temperatures from a low of 5 degrees centigrade to highs of 15 degrees centigrade in a matter of hours.
Calgary is listed by The Economist as one of the top 5 most livable cities on earth. It's the jewel of Wild Rose Country, with the highest GDP per Capita in Canada and is ranked among the top cities in quality of life.
Seniors who live here love life in the community. Take, for example, Leo and Maxine Nugent. Says Leo, "We walk a mile or so every day. We can see the mountains, and we breathe that clean mountain air. Only yesterday we were saying how right we were to come here."
Find out about the best retirement destinations in the Calgary area.
Population: 92,013 (2016)
Weather: humid continental
Lifestyle: fast or slow, depending on your mood
Signature attraction: Canadian Tire Motorsport Park (formerly Mosport Park), home to some legendary summer concerts.
Fun fact: Parkwood Estate was used in the movies Billy Madison, Chicago and X-Men. It was home of Samuel McLaughlin, founder of General Motors of Canada.
On the pristine shores of Lake Ontario, just outside the busy GTA, lies Clarington. Its proximity to Toronto makes it desirable for a multitude of reasons. Real estate prices are still reasonable but appreciating steadily here, so even in retirement you'll acquire equity on your investment. This suburban area has low crime and the strong presence of commuting families. Nestled within that suburban population, though, you'll find a number of active living gems ideal for those 55 and older looking to downsize from their family home.
Retirement living in this area is ideal, as people who've settled here will tell you. Judith and her husband moved to the area from Peterborough, where, for many years, they ran a successful business. She praises the adult lifestyle community they bought into, where they have "the opportunity to continue to live our lives together [in] the country atmosphere we love." Cherry, a member of the same community praises the "laid back lifestyle here. It's easy to make friends when everyone is so friendly."
Find adult lifestyle communities in Clarington and area, and learn about senior condos in Oshawa.
Lifestyle: relaxed, friendly
Signature event: Canada Day Weekend, when area beaches fill with holiday revelers.
Fun fact: Oil Springs was the site of North America's first commercial oil well, drilled in 1858, long before oil was discovered in Texas or California.
Lambton County makes up the warmest, sunniest end of Lake Huron, an area brimming with destination beaches that include Grand Bend and Bright's Grove, as well as spots on the St. Clair River. There are several notable active lifestyle communities in the area, with more in development. This area's a hot spot for progressive-minded retirement development, removed as it is from the high-end real estate of the Golden Horseshoe, while it's also home to all that sunny beachfront. There's also just enough to do nearby, when you want a day out. Great shopping is just a border-crossing away, and London – under an hour away – has an active night life, great restaurants, and fun activities for the grandkids. Ask Ron in Grand Bend what he thinks of the area and he says, "It's just a great place to retire. Homes here have reasonable prices and everyone is so friendly."
Take a closer look at some specific excellent places to retire in Lambton County.
Population: 383,360 (Greater Victoria)
Signature event: Feast, Food, and Film Festival, held annually each June
Fun fact: National Geographic Magazine recognizes Vancouver Island as one of the best cold-water diving destinations in the world, and the renowned Jacques Cousteau Society rates the area as second only to the Red Sea for diversity of marine life and water clarity.
Victoria is often ranked highly as a retirement destination for its low property tax rates and the high number of doctors per capita. Money and health care are important, certainly, but the climate here is second to none in the country. Healthy sea air and moderate temperatures make life here better than many other colder, drier climes. And of course, let’s not forget the scenery! Nearby towns include Saanich, just as desirable, and further up you’ll find sparkling island gems like Duncan, Comox Valley and other retirement destinations.
Is life really that great here on the Island? Brenda, a resident of Arbutus Ridge by the Sea, says, "Cowichan Valley is Canada’s only Maritime Mediterranean climate, with mild winters and moderate summers. This was a little hard for me to believe initially, [but] we have been here for seven months now, and have settled in wonderfully."
Scotty Day, resident in a Pacific coastal retirement home, chimes in: "We're always excited to go away. But without exception, when we return, we always say, 'It's so good to be home!'" Read Scotty's story here.
Find our complete list of Victoria retirement living suites.
Lifestyle: rural living
Fun fact: despite its size, Swan River still has the 15th largest city population in the province of Manitoba.
It's about time more people considered retiring to Manitoba. And Swan River, situated at the crossroads of Highways 10 and 275, stands out for several reasons. It's home to some of the most spectacular scenery and one of the most affordable active lifestyle communities in Canada. Summers in Manitoba are much drier than in other parts of the country, ideal weather for health issues like arthritis. Hey, if you snowbird in winter, why not "summer bird" in summer! There's great fishing in the river, and great golfing at the Swan River Golf and Country Club.
For those who do like to snowbird in the winter, owning a place in an active lifestyle community here means you don't have to worry about maintenance in the winter.
Find our active living communities in Manitoba to see why we love Swan River.
Lifestyle: easy-going, small-town living
Signature attraction:The Ancaster-Dundas area is home to a number of picturesque waterfalls including Webster's Falls and Tew's Falls.
Fun fact: In the early 19th century, with its location at the juncture of trade routes and its proximity to easy water power, Ancaster was the largest industrial and commercial centre in Upper Canada.
Ancaster, Ontario is a rapidly growing community, well-situated on the cusp of the Golden Horseshoe but still retaining its small-town roots. It's home to lots of greenspace, and nearby you'll find world-class health care, along with notable higher learning environments like McMaster University and Mohawk College. Real estate prices in the area are much lower than those in the GTA, while downtown Toronto is still an easy drive along the 403.
Several neighbourhoods in the Ancaster area are especially welcoming to those 55 and older who want to move into a smaller home. Adult lifestyle communities throughout the Hamilton area take away much of the traditional work of home ownership; here, grass-cutting, snow-shoveling and other household tasks are all taken care of, so you can just live.
Population: 2,463,400 (Greater Vancouver)
Signature event: Vancouver Fringe Festival is "theatre for everyone," with over 700 performances of theatre productions, independent plays and works of unconventional performance art. It's held every September.
Fun fact: The first ever McDonald's restaurant outside the United States was started in Richmond, on the west side of Vancouver, in 1967.
Vancouver is storied as one of the most eminently livable cities in the world, but it falls down our list here, due to its equally storied real estate prices. If you can afford a place in Vancouver, it makes a great investment, a factor you should consider even in retirement. With house prices still increasing as much as 5% year-over-year in recent times, Vancouver real estate remains a healthy way of investing your nest egg.
No list of great places to retire in Canada is complete without Vancouver, the central gem in the province that once duly labeled itself the best place on earth. And according to some, its spectacular scenery, temperate climate, and fresh sea air is just a bonus to living here! What's really important? The Economist has ranked Vancouver in the top three places to live in the world for years on end, based on key factors like stability, health care, culture, environment, education and infrastructure.
Find great retirement destinations in Vancouver.
Sources and further resources
Moneysense's Best places to retire in 2017
The Economist tracks the world's most liveable cities. E.g. economist.com/blogs/graphicdetail/2015/08/daily-chart-5.
*Since we are looking at spectacular national destinations, this list does not necessarily match up with our regional and provincial lists. These places are most suitable to and welcoming for people moving from out of the province or out of the country. This list also contains a variety of cities, in terms of size, appeal, ethos, etc.
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