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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11 Comments

  1. Karen on June 10, 2015 at 5:33 am

    Your 4th city with the highest concentration of seniors is listed as Catherine’s and this should in fact be ST. CATHARINES, ON.

    • Echo on June 10, 2015 at 7:26 am

      Fixed!

  2. Tracey H on June 10, 2015 at 5:39 am

    Wow, I never thought about my Will and Power of Attorney not being valid and good point about probate. We’re thinking of retiring elsewhere (either out of country or out of province) and I hadn’t thought much about those things!

  3. Christian Beauchemin on June 11, 2015 at 5:29 am

    COrrection, both Montreal and Toronto are closer to New York (plane or car) then Halifax

  4. DivGuy on June 11, 2015 at 9:59 am

    I too doubt that Halifax is closer to New York than Montreal or Toronto…

    That being said, it’s an interesting post that made me learn some facts about our beautiful country. B-C surely is a great province. Went to the Okanagan Valley a while ago and I can’t wait to bring my kids there. So beautiful!

    I don’t have a particular place in mind for retiring, but I certainly would like to travel a lot and enjoy each place’s advantages.

    Cheers,

    Mike

  5. Charles on June 3, 2018 at 10:43 am

    We retired eight years ago. Now, thinking to relocate to B.C. How will this move affect our OAS and GIS? Do we still receiving the same amount monthly from Canadian government? How to file our tax return? Can we apply Senior Housing in B.C.? Could anyone give us some advice on our questions? Thank you very much.

    • Gene on July 1, 2018 at 11:08 am

      Dear Charles
      Depending on where you plan to move to in B.C., services are widely spread
      The cost of living in the lower mainland area of B.C. is very high and housing costs have soared thru the roof with an average home being over 1.2 million dollars. The vacancy rate is very bad and rents are very expensive.
      Senior care is good, better if you have a nest egg to rely on.
      Winters are very mild and not much snow, unless you go north or to the interior where they get their fair share of snow.
      We have GST and PST here in B.C., some say better than the HST in other parts of Canada.
      Vancouver and outlying areas are becoming one of the most expensive areas in the world to live.
      Your CCP and Old Age pensions will remain the same regardless of where you live.
      Tax returns are pretty much all the same across the country, just provincial specific to each province.
      There are many Seniors housing complex’s and you may qualify for assisted funding. There is a Provincial Senoirs website which I would be happy to look up for you if you like
      Where are you retiring from if I may ask?
      If you would like any specific information I’d be happy to fill in for you

      • Charles Yue on July 1, 2018 at 2:59 pm

        Dear Gene, thank you so much for all the useful information. It is a great help to someone like us that we know nothing about relocating from Ontario to BC/Vancouver. We would like to have more information if you can find any. We have been living in Markham, Ontario for more or less 30 years, BC/Vancouver is totally new to us; but we are getting a bit tired with Toronto’s cold winter, BC/Vancouver seems a good choice to us.

        • Gene on July 3, 2018 at 8:20 am

          Charles
          https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/family-social-supports/seniors
          Have a look at this website for senior information
          Do you have a specific area in mind to relocate to?
          Just keep in mind the housing costs are a lot higher in Vancouver, North Vancouver and close lying areas.
          Maple Ridge, Mission and beyond are affordable for the time being.
          Our condo market has gone crazy here, although you could get a nice condo in an older building for about 600,000 I think
          If you need any more infor just reach out
          Thanks
          Regards
          Gene

  6. Charles on July 3, 2018 at 8:40 am

    Dear Gene, briefly browsed the website, so much information. We need time to read and digest. Thank you for your kind assistance.

  7. Mike on March 11, 2020 at 7:54 am

    I currently live in Toronto, ON, and considering relocating to Montreal, QC. I wish to know the pros and cons of the impact on my pension plan. Can anyone advise me on this issue?

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