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Retirement Communities and Retirement Living in Canada

Last updated on: Friday, 5 May 2023
  • What You'll Learn

Moving into a senior living community or a retirement home is a big decision that families and seniors do not take lightly. However, retirement communities give residents freedom from home maintenance, ownership, housekeeping, and even cooking in some retirement communities. Retirement communities are committed to helping seniors age well in a home-like environment, and retirement communities promote vitality and active living.

There are many reasons why seniors consider retirement communities, whether it is for the added freedom, amenities, or because it makes financial sense. When considering retirement living, it is important to compare your current cost of living to what a retirement community is going to cost. Overall, retirement communities provide excellent amenities, freedom, and peace of mind and offer various living arrangements. For seniors who are healthy enough to live without daily care or personal care assistance, retirement living is an excellent option.

What Is Included in Retirement Living?

Every retirement community is different and unique, but there are some common amenities:

  • Apartment of condo-style accommodations with personal furnishings
  • Kitchens or kitchenettes
  • Linen and laundry service
  • Weekly housekeeping services
  • Meal service and dining rooms
  • Activity schedule
  • Outings and excursions
  • Common areas for socializing
  • Transportation services
  • Safety and security

Amenities vary by retirement community, but the amenities mentioned above are usually standard, but that is not always the case. Some upscale senior living communities or retirement homes include onsite spas and fitness centers, heated swimming pools, restaurants shops, salons, and even guest accommodations for visiting family and friends.

It is important to note that retirement communities do not usually provide onsite nursing care at the same level of care as assisted living. Residents are in good health and active and do not require help with the activities of daily life. Most retirees who move from their home to an active adult community or retirement home are eager to leave behind the responsibilities and expenses of home maintenance. Others choose to move because they want to meet more peers with similar interests. Generally, most seniors that choose formal retirement living select a community that offers a continuum of care.

What is The Cost of Retirement Living, and Who Pays for It?

Retirement homes and communities are not subsidized by the government. Most residences are paid for by seniors and their families. If a retirement home does have a subsidized rate for residents, it typically has a long waiting list due to strong demand. The resources to pay for retirement living can come from income, savings, annuities, and investments. For example, this could be the proceeds from the sale of your current home, reverse mortgage, and withdrawals against the cash value of permanent life insurance policies.

The cost of retirement living varies across the country, and in every province and territory, the cost is different. According to the 2020 Seniors Housing Survey results, the vacancy rates have varied for seniors across the country. Vacancy rates, for example, in Newfoundland and Labrador for standard spaces is now 22.6%. Within the province of Manitoba, it is only 2.7% and 3.4% in Nova Scotia. Generally, within the prairies, the vacancy rates were higher at about 15% in Alberta and Saskatchewan. In Quebec, 18.4% of its seniors aged 75 and over lived in seniors’ residences in 2020. Across other provinces, between 5% and 10% were living in senior residences.

Average Rent for Seniors in Each Province—Information is taken from the 2020 Senior Housing Survey

Quebec—The demand for senior residences in the province grew, and the vacancy decreased in 2020 in cities like Montreal, Sherbrooke, and Trois-Rivieres. The average rent in the province for standard space was $1,844 in 2020.

Ontario—The vacancy rate for seniors’ residences and standard spaces in the province great, and the total supply of senior housing grew. The average rent for a standard place for seniors is $3,865.

Manitoba—The province’s vacancy rate decreased, and the average rent for a standard space in the province was $2,848. However, the average rent in the Winnipeg Metropolitan area was higher than in the province.

Saskatchewan—The number of vacancies in the province for a standard space decreased, and the overall average rent for a standard space in the province was $3,105. The demand for senior housing in the province continues to remain strong.

Alberta—The vacancy rate in the province for a standard space increased, and the largest increases occurred in the Edmonton region. The average rent for a standard space for seniors in the province is $3,270. Within the Calgary region, the rent was $3,945, and in the Edmonton region, it was $2,884.

British Columbia—The vacancy rate for seniors in the province increased, and the average rent for independent living space was $3,364—the Lower Mainland posted the highest rents. The demand for independent living or retirement living in the Vancouver Island Central Coast Region continues to remain high.

Atlantic Canada—Across the Maritime provinces, the vacancy rate for a standard space in senior housing increased in 2020; however, the rates varied from province to province. Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island saw declines. The Average rent for a standard space in Atlantic Canada was $2,858 in 2020.

Are there Alternatives to Traditional Retirement Living?

Private pay independent living communities are not always affordable for every senior. However, every province does offer government-funded services to make it easier for seniors to live at home. For example, there are supported and private pay home care services that can help with laundry, housekeeping, transportation, and meals. Moreover, there are also programs that help seniors renovate their homes to make them more user friendly.

If I Choose Retirement Living, How Do I Know It Is the Right One?

If you are considering moving to a retirement community, it is important to visit the facility in-person, ask questions of the staff, and imagine what it would be like to live there. More importantly, know what exactly the community has to offer so you can compare your options. Moreover, it is also a good idea to consider future needs if the time comes where more care is needed.

Questions to Ask and Things to Consider:

  • The cost each month and if there is a deposit and how often does the cost increase
  • Are there dining services, restaurants, or are meals provided each way and each day? 
  • Does the facility provide transportation services, and is the price included in the rent?
  • Are the housekeeping and laundry services part of the monthly rent or purchased separately? 
  • Does the facility offer a continuum of care when a transfer to more care is needed? 
  • Are all of the amenities included in the monthly rate, and are there extras at an added cost? 

These are only some questions to consider, and it is important to have a list of questions you would like answered. Once you have all the information, the next step is to narrow down your options and make a decision based on your needs, short-term and long-term.