Retiring in a rural area or small town: What you need to know

Google “Canadian retirement homes” and see what comes up. Google will tell you something like this: “About 58,700,000 results (0.25 seconds).”

Now type in: “rural Canadian retirement homes.” While you'll still get a staggering number of results — about 7,970,000 — it's substantially fewer. So what if you don't plan to retire in Toronto, Calgary, Vancouver, or Montreal? What if you live in Bonnechere, Ont., or Turtleford, Sask.? Almost a quarter of Canadian seniors live in rural communities or small towns.



Retiring in the Country vs. Retiring in the City

The thought of moving to Toronto just to find a nice retirement home likely isn't appealing. And maybe you don't even want to live in a retirement home. Maybe you want to “age in home.” Then what?

When you are thinking about whether you will be able to maintain a healthy, happy lifestyle in your community, there are a number of things you have to examine. A recent focus group resulted in a report  entitled, Age-Friendly Rural and Remote Communities: A Guide.  It says it well: A community that works for seniors works for everyone.

Remote Communities — What's Important to You?

So what should you look for? The quick answer: age-friendliness. The long answer involves asking questions about what's important.

Here are some specifics from the report:

  1. Outdoor spaces and buildings: Are there walkable sidewalks and accessible trails? A location's climate can dramatically affect accessibility. What are the snow-removal policies? Are businesses close together or spread apart?

  2. Transportation: Is there any form of public transportation and, if so, what is the schedule? Does ridership affect its schedule or do the buses run no matter what? How is traffic? What about accessible parking? Is driving an affordable option in the community?

  3. Housing: Even owning your own home doesn't mean you're free of expenses. What about maintenance and utility costs? Do you have anyone in the community to help with basic maintenance, or will you have to hire a professional? Are there any long-term care options in the immediate vicinity?

  4. Employment opportunities: The definition of retirement has changed over the years. Being "retired" doesn't necessarily mean not working. It might just mean winding down, working less, or just doing something you love. What are the opportunities available? What about volunteer opportunities?

  5. Community support and health services: This extends beyond hospitals and long-term caregivers. What about doctors, nurses and pharmacists? Even counselors or homemakers?


While deciding to live rurally may eliminate a list of hundreds of retirement home options, it doesn't eliminate any of the questions that need be asked. A wonderful guide, with more detailed information, can be found here: Age-Friendly Rural and Remote Communities: A Guide

by Brad Needham

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