When you are approaching retirement you have quite a few important decisions to make. One decision is where you want to spend your retirement years.

According to a BMO survey, most Canadians prefer to stay close to home rather than uprooting their lives. Of those who plan to relocate, most move to another province. Only about 10% of the survey respondents would like to relocate outside of Canada, of which 5% move to the US, with Florida and Arizona the not surprising favourite destinations.

Alberta has the lowest proportion of seniors and Albertans are the most likely to relocate (61%). To where do they move? Beautiful British Columbia is the most likely destination for them as well as those from Manitoba and Saskatchewan. As a recent migrant from Alberta to B.C. myself, I suspect that getting away from 9-month-long frozen prairie winters is tops on the list of reasons to move. British Columbians on the other hand plan to stay put in their own home province.

Related: Have you considered a permanent retirement overseas?

Residents of Atlantic Canada are the most likely to stay put (only 37% would move away). It is interesting to note that these provinces expect to see the highest increase in seniors in the next few years. This is not surprising news to me since most of the Maritimers I have worked with over the years in Calgary stated that they couldn’t wait to return to the “old sod.” It’s true that for them “home is where the heart is”.

According to the latest census, the places with the highest percentage of seniors are:

  1. Peterborough, Ontario
  2. Trois Rivieres, Quebec
  3. Kelowna, B.C.
  4. St. Catherines, Ontario
  5. Victoria, B.C.

Important factors 

What are people looking for in a Canadian retirement community?

Not surprisingly, good weather was one the most frequently cited considerations. Also high ranking is the proximity to family, affordable housing costs, the availability of health care facilities and things to do.

Related: Whatever you do, don’t retire alone (and other helpful advice)

There has also been a heavier migration from cities to smaller communities, although close proximity to a major city is desirable.

A low budget residence often allows people the freedom to travel or spend more on other entertainment.

Some top Canadian places to retire

Here are some popular retirement communities, from East to West:

1. Halifax, Nova Scotia

Here’s a fun fact: Halifax is two hours closer to Europe by air than any other North American city, and closer to New York than any other Canadian city.

It has a thriving arts scene and many walking trails. The city also has the largest concentration of health care facilities and specialists in Canada.

2. Moncton, New Brunswick 

Moncton was named Canada’s most polite and honest city by Readers Digest magazine. Home prices are low for both buying and renting. It has the second highest number of family physicians per 100,000 residents in Canada.

Related: On retirement – Early or never?

Although it’s cold in the winter, the sun shines most of the year. The areas four large parks make it great for walkers, and there’s nearby Magic Mountain Water Park for visiting grandchildren.

3. Ottawa, Ontario

Ottawa tops MoneySense magazine’s list of best places to retire. It was named the world’s cleanest city. Summers are hot. There’s a good selection of seniors centres and excellent health care and support.

4. Niagara region, Ontario

This area has the second highest proportion of senior residents in Ontario (19%), behind Peterborough (20%). The falls, wineries and the Shaw Theatre Festival make it a top tourist attraction, but people who are downsizing and looking for a slower pace while still close to Toronto (90 minute drive) are finding this area appealing.

5. Okanagan, British Columbia

The area from Osoyoos to Salmon Arm, and encompassing Kelowna, Penticton and Vernon, is one of the most affordable in B.C. Residents soak up 30-degree summers and temperate winters. They enjoy beautiful lakes, sandy beaches, thriving orchards and wine tasting at the hundreds of vineyards. There’s golf, skiing, arts and culture and lots of family and kid friendly attractions for your visitors. 

Final thoughts

Is retirement the best time to relocate? There are many things to consider. 

A move that’s lifestyle motivated may lead you to a location where the cost of living is higher. It may also entail frequent travel to visit your family, thereby increasing your retirement income needs.

Related: Why downsizing might not save your retirement

If you don’t know the area, try visiting often at various times of the year and/or renting for several months. It’s easy to fall in love with a place when the sun is shining and the flowers are in bloom, but it can be dreary in the fall and winter months when it’s rainy or blizzarding.

If you plan to relocate, you need to review your health care coverage. Provincial income tax differences can be substantial depending on your income level. Your Will and Power of Attorney may no longer be accepted, or adequate. Probate fees vary widely between provinces, so a revision of your estate plan is crucial.


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