Among its sprawling landscape of skyscrapers, urban areas, parks, suburbs, gardens and beaches, Toronto has an assortment of inviting, culturally rich spaces for seniors to enjoy their retirement. Within these areas are an array of quality retirement communities.
This is your guide to Toronto's senior communities, which covers downtown, East York/York City, Etobicoke, North York, and Scarborough.
Retirement communities in Toronto fall into different categories -- each category occupying a different niche in the senior spectrum of care, (see image below).
Many Toronto communities also allow for a "continuum" of care. This means healthy residents can live in an independent living suite at the residence for many years, and as their health demands increase they move to an assisted living suite within the same community. (Assisted living offers a greater level of medical care and staff time for health and other personal needs). This means residents can remain within the community of their friends and peers, where they are familiar, while still ensuring their changing health needs are met.
For seniors with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease there are a few residences in Toronto offering 24-hour care in a secured community. These retirement homes specialize in this, ensuring that residents are provided a comfortable, familiar, home-like environment that meets their unique and challenging needs. Care for dementias other than Alzheimer's may differ slightly as our understanding increases; learn more about care for other dementia types.
Many retirement homes listed on ComfortLife have excelled at keeping residents safe throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. They’re patently designed and built to do just that, of course, but not enough people understand how strict the protection of seniors in retirement homes is. Residents in those places duly praise these communities for keeping them safer than they would be on their own. As one Toronto senior has put it, “It’s good for all of us to be here. We have a tendency to be careless at times if you are all alone. But here, the regular demonstrations help us be safe. There is freedom in the restrictions.”
Here’s a look at increased safety measures taken by retirement homes in Toronto, as of September 2020.
Communities on Comfort Life tell what life is like under quarantine, in a transparent effort to not only assure family members and others, but as a matter of course. Visit community pages linked to above, and see how many of them report this under a heading special to their Comfort Life profile, called "what life looks like now."
Care throughout the GTA
Tools to help you choose
Despite being diagnosed with early-onset dementia at only 54 years old, Kathleen found joy, togetherness, and meaningful connections with others.
Seniors can rent, own, or life-lease suites and entire homes, (see our comparison piece here). The most common financing option is renting, however, and that's what we'll address.
In 2020, the average rent in Ontario grew by 2.8% to $3,865 a month. The vacancy rate for standard spaces increased to 11.0% across all seniors’ housing unit types.
As seen for many years, Etobicoke had the highest average monthly rent in Ontario, at $5,559.
To come up with the funds to pay retirement home rent, most seniors use a combination of their pensions, RRSPs, CPP and other income. Many seniors use the profits from the sale of their home and even help from family members to cover their costs.
Use a retirement calculator, like this one, for help understanding and managing the costs associated with retirement home living.
For seniors who need financial assistance, it’s good to know that some retirement homes work with the City of Toronto to provide subsidized help for seniors, however due to high demand it is difficult to receive this subsidized care. Contact the City of Toronto for further details.
The Trillium Drug Program (TDP) is another option for seniors looking for financial help. The TDP helps people with high prescription drug costs relative to their household income. It covers a number of approved drugs and almost anyone who has an Ontario health card, lives in Ontario and is a senior over the age of 65 years of age is eligible to apply.
Many Toronto seniors are accustomed to living in their traditional family home — or perhaps a condo or other arrangement. In some cases, though, this gradually blinds them to the fact that living alone is no longer part of an ideal lifestyle. Neighbours around them get younger. Keeping ahead of home maintenance becomes progressively more difficult. Friends move or pass away (a sad fact of life.) On their own, people end up making simpler meals and eating less, reducing social outings, and decreasing physical activity. When you move into a senior living community, though, new opportunities abound. People discover how easy it is to make and maintain new friendships. When you pass on mundane daily activities to other people, you discover or rekindle passions left dormant while you were raising kids, paying the bills and maintaining the house.
Janet is one example. “When I moved into [a retirement home],” she says, “I decided to join the art class. I had not done much painting before.” Her art has now found other homes, too. It’s even been featured in publications from the community in which she lives, a Tapestry home. You can read more stories about Janet and others at Tapestry’s blog.
When you’re cooking for one or two, you may have a tendency to stick to sandwiches or soup. But in the best Toronto retirement homes, dining is an experience. Some feature chefs who “create meals as a celebration of good food … [they] provide a venue to come together as one of the measures of success.” It’s not just eating anymore, it’s eating very well, and in the same way, it’s not just “senior living,” it’s living very well. Read more about dining in Toronto communities that count themselves among the city's finest.
In a community of peers, it’s much easier to find a circle of friends who share interests. At one Toronto community there is a poetry circle that meets once per month. When the group gets together, it’s much more fun than serious or, as one group member says, “the interruptions are the main event.” Here, their time together goes too fast. Myrla says, “It’s a lovely hour. I wouldn’t miss it. The whole thing—the interaction with ideas and talking together.”
These stories are a small part of the overall collection of transformative experiences felt by seniors in Toronto retirement communities. We encourage you to read more testimonials at profiles of communities linked to above and also sampled in our Toronto retirement community reviews.
Well-run homes address the physical, emotional and social aspects of aging, and encourage seniors to socialize, explore their interests, and make the most of their retirement years.
Photo: Toronto offers retirement community residents a plethora of activities, but sometimes the most fun can be had from home.
Many Toronto retirement communities take advantage of the surrounding city for sources of stimulation. Residences organize bus trips within the GTA to shopping malls like Yorkdale, Square One and the Eaton Centre as well as other attractions like The Royal Ontario Museum, Ripley’s Aquarium, and the Toronto Art Gallery, while others offer bus trips outside of Toronto to areas like Niagara Falls and Stratford for events such as the Stratford Festival.
Toronto offers a variety of amenities and activities including the theatre, waterfront and distillery districts, cycling and walking trails, parks, museums and art galleries, as well as year round festivals and events. Examples of popular events are the Canadian Stage Company’s outdoor Shakespeare production “Dream in High Park” each summer in Toronto’s High Park, the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), the Caribbean Carnival (also called Caribana) in July/August, and Pride Week annually near the end of June.
Those interested in sports can enjoy any of Toronto’s seven major league sports with access to popular sports venues such as the Air Canada Centre, Rogers Centre, BMO Field and Ricoh Coliseum. The ACC and Rogers Centre in particular provide a variety of tradeshows, conventions and concerts that may interest residents.
Photo: Residents often take classes -- either from within or outside the retirement community.
But retirement communities, of course, also provide their own daily activity plan and full recreation program, along with religious services for seniors of various faiths. Some examples of daily activities include bingo, cards, movies, musical concerts, entertainment which is brought into the residence, and celebrations of local festivals and holidays. Some communities also offer a games room, spa services, mini-golf/Wii, community gardens, party rooms and arts/crafts rooms for seniors to develop and share their interests with others.
A number of volunteers are also involved in retirement community life in Toronto. Primary, middle and high school students often visit residents, university students complete internships and there are a number of senior volunteers who come to spend time with seniors.
I love living in the city and being able to just jump on the subway downtown to catch whatever's going on down there. This is where I want to be.
Montfort Hospital provides a wide range of programs available with a referral, such as cardiovascular and pulmonary health, diabetes, falls, rehabilitation, thrombosis, a sleep laboratory, and spiritual and religious services.
Most retirement homes in Toronto -- regardless of where they fall on the care spectrum -- have an on-site doctor, or a doctor who visits residents on a regular basis. On-site nursing staff are also available in most retirement homes, although their availability will range – some are available 24/7 while others are available for specific hours, depending on the type of retirement home and living package you choose.
A pharmacy on-site is less common, although it does exist in some retirement homes in Toronto. (Only 5% of senior homes in Ontario offer an on-site pharmacy, which is one of the lowest provincial averages in Canada).
Depending on the retirement community, a number of other medical programs may be available, ranging from simple exercise programs, to intensive physiotherapy, to recuperative programs, to programs for knee-replacements, to special dietary programs.
Photo: a good retirement community will include activities that keep residents healthy.
Residents who need medical care outside of the scope of what the retirement home can offer may hire one-on-one care; sometimes the LHIN will pick up the tab for this extra service.
Many communities have developed partnerships with nearby hospitals -- like Sunnybrook Hospital, for example, whcih runs transitional programs with local retirement homes.
The high concentration of world-class hospitals in Toronto also helps. Seniors deciding to stick around Toronto in one of its retirement homes can depend on one of the medical centres specializing in geriatric care.
Toronto also has a number of health-focused non-profit organizations to help raise awareness for and treat residents, such as the Alzheimer Society of Toronto, the Heart and Stroke Foundation, the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of Canada, and the Canadian Cancer Society which all have offices in the downtown core. The ALS Society of Canada, Canadian Mental Health Association and Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation are other examples of organizations in the area that assist residents within the GTA.
With one of the lowest crime rates in Canada, Toronto is considered one of the safest major cities in North America. A quality retirement community will work hard to ensure its residents are safe inside and outside the residence. Toronto homes commonly have security monitoring, call bell systems, and emergency phone systems in place to safeguard their residents’ and help them feel confident as they explore their new community and surrounding area.
All retirement communities in Toronto are also provincially legislated to provide a safe environment for seniors, (see below for more info).
Most retirement homes ensure that a senior’s transportation needs are well cared for, either through bussing or a group of orgnized volunteers. For independent seniors who want to get around Toronto on their own, there are a number of options:
For seniors who are looking to get around Toronto’s suburbs these community services are available:
Demands for space have decreased slightly across Ontario for all unit types, except for ward/semi-private spaces. In 2021, there were 67,399 units available in Ontario for seniors, with demand highest for two bedroom suites. Toronto had 21,056 units total, with a vacancy rate of 20.7%.
When it comes to choosing a retirement home, there is a lot to consider. Some seniors are looking for homes near their family, while others want to explore the benefits of a more active lifestyle. The first step is to determine what you want, what you’re looking for, what you can afford and the location of your search (assuming you have a particular neighbourhood in mind).
If you’re not sure whether it’s time to consider retirement living, consider the following starter questions:
For more points to consider and some common questions and concerns about retirement homes, please visit our page for seniors considering a retirement home.
It's also important to ensure your medical needs are met, the residence you choose is affordable now and in the future, and that the home can grow with your needs as your activity and medical levels change over time.
Keep in mind that if you are interested in a long-term care home in particular, it’s likely you will be put on a waitlist. Semi-private and private accommodations generally cost more but may have shorter wait times, and different factors may affect average wait times, such as the type of accommodation requested, if someone is in crisis, if there is an ethno-cultural preference, or if there are specific medical care needs. For more information on wait times, contact the designated associations mentioned below (under "Toronto retirement community regulations) or the retirement community of your choice directly.
If you’re not sure whether a retirement home is right for you, many homes will offer overnight stays to provide an opportunity for you or your loved ones to get the full experience of what the residence has to offer.
Get more information about choosing a retirement home, or contact the residences above to get started with your search.
Don’t forget to download the Ultimate Retirement Tour Checklist to take with you when you begin touring retirement communities on your shortlist.
Being with people our own age, with similar concerns, definitely makes a difference in your everyday living.
Retirement communities throughout Ontario, including Toronto, are subject to the Retirement Home Regulatory Authority (RHRA), which set a deadline of July 3, 2012 for existing residences to become licensed. Licensing requires retirement homes to receive approval and undergo ongoing inspections by the RHRA in order to operate.
Many retirement homes in Toronto are also members of provincial and national associations, including: