Where To Live
Big city lights, suburban living or the charms of a small town? Whether you’re looking to downsize or simply make a change, we look at the benefits of these three different lifestyles.
1. Big City Lights
Urban living, says Evan Rosser, is geared to Zoomers who crave action and energy
If you find yourself drawn to the big city, chances are it’s for a lot of the same reasons that may have taken you there in your youth. “Some people have a need for museums and art galleries and operas,” explains Linda Comrie, a sales representative with Re/Max Realtron Realty Inc. “I think those are the people who most want to move to the city.” Ready access to cultural events and activities is certainly a big draw, but downtown life also boasts an energy many retirees find attractive. “They want not just a one-to-one connection with their peers but the feeling of being part of a bustling, energized city,” Comrie says.
“There’s some people who just love going out on the street and being downtown,” says Alexander Henderson, a real estate solicitor with Oiye, Henderson Barristers and Solicitors in Toronto. Henderson goes on to describe a client of his, who, in December, decided to move out of a retirement home and into a condo on Toronto’s fashionable Esplanade. “She’s 86. She hates the music and the pubs but she loves being around the young people.” Though moving into a hip condo may require you to compete with other buyers, Comrie says “You’re at an advantage [over younger buyers] because you have the money and don’t need financing. You’re going to win that offer every time.”
The Simple, Bare Necessities
Another major bonus of life in the city is easy access to transportation and medical services and facilities. Later in life, the financial and physical requirements of car ownership can become quite onerous. The public transit and proximity to hospitals available in the big city can save you from dependency on a friend or relative or feeling trapped by the burden of a taxing expense.
Shifting into a condo or a step-down care facility (a condo or apartment connected to a nursing home or long-term care facility that includes access to nursing and support staff services) can also eliminate yard work and property maintenance — both of which become increasingly difficult with age. According to the TD Canada Trust report, more than half of Canada’s boomers are considering a condo for their next move because of the drop in required maintenance.
The suburbs, suggests Travis Persaud, allow Zoomers to right-size in their comfort zone.
Growing up and constantly moving across Canada wasn’t easy for Joan Deason, but she found comfort in her family, who helped her make the transition as smooth as possible.
“My father worked for General Motors, and we moved all over — Winnipeg, Montreal, Moncton, Oshawa, Regina …” Deason explains. “But it was very easy when I was young. My parents helped us cope, and there were always other General Motors families where we moved, so we had a GM family to rely on.”
Deason, who’s about to turn 80, recently moved — likely for the last time — with her husband, Thomas, 86, from the home they lived in for three decades. While they still enjoy theatre and other cultural offerings, they made a concerted decision to remain in a suburb east of Toronto to stay close to their community.
“Moving from a fairly large home into a small apartment in the suburbs was tough,” she says. “But we live close to our children and grandchildren, and that’s made it much easier.
3. A Northern Escape
Small towns, says Peter Muggeridge, not only offer scenic charm, they’re an affordable option for those turned off by big city prices.
In the late 1980s, when the uranium industry began to close down mines and pull up stakes in Elliot Lake, city planners were scrambling for ideas to keep the community from turning into just another northern Ontario ghost town.
The solution was revolutionary. A newly formed body called Elliot Lake Retirement Living (ELRL) would buy and spruce up the company-built workers’ homes, turn them into affordable housing units, reinvent the city as a retirement community and then get busy convincing people to retire to an off-the-radar town many had never have heard of.
It seemed like a long-shot — especially the notion that people would willingly retire to such a remote community. But, in the 20 years since the plan was green-lighted, ELRL now boasts more than 1,400 rental units with a stunning 93 per cent occupancy.
Ian Ross, 67, is one retiree who took the leap and retired to this re-imagined mining town. Born and raised in a high-density Toronto neighbourhood, Ross worked in the television industry. In 2006, his career winding down, Ross decided he needed “to get away from it all.” Aware of the retirement opportunities offered in Elliot Lake, he visited the town, signed a rental agreement on a one-bedroom apartment and hasn’t looked back.
Ross loves the natural beauty of his adopted city. “I step out into my backyard and I’m in the wilderness,” he says. He stays connected with the world through Internet and HD satellite TV, listens to music and tours around on his motorcycle. “I come back to Toronto once in a while to visit friends, buy some trinkets or go to a movie. But I don’t miss it. Last time I was there, I cut my trip short just so I could get back to Elliot Lake.”
People who don’t have a high income or whose options are limited by the amount of equity they have in their current houses opt for the more affordable rental units that many small towns offer. Once they’ve relocated, they often set their sights on taking advantage of the area’s bargain house prices.