This is the third of seven articles about Canadian communities that may appeal to 50-plus people – readers' picks of seven great places for retirement. Do you have a favourite place for retirement? Tell us in the comments section.
When the Pennycooks decided to sell their Brampton, Ont., home seven years ago, they were looking for a change.
Darlyne Pennycook had retired from teaching with the Toronto Catholic School Board and Bob Pennycook was cutting back on his work as an artist, so they decided to leave the hustle and bustle behind and retire to a more rural area.
"We had lived in the city all our lives and we thought we'd give the country a try," says Mr. Pennycook, 65.
The couple looked east, and with the help of a real estate agent, found a single-family home in the municipality of Tweed, about 40 kilometres north of Belleville. The move meant a lot of new experiences for the Pennycooks – some of them involving wildlife.
"I can sit on my front porch and watch a wild turkey chase a German shepherd dog down the road," Mr. Pennycook says. "I can go outside and find a cow in my driveway or a horse in my backyard. [That's] not anything I experienced in the city."
Between the slower pace of life in the country, the friendly local villages, the thriving art scene and the natural landscape, the move was just what they were looking for, Mr. Pennycook says. They may not be able to go to a different restaurant every night the way they could in Toronto, but nighttime in Tweed has its own allure.
"For city folk, the beauty of the very dark night sky was an amazing revelation," he says. "If pressed, I could probably read a book under the full moon."
Like the Pennycooks, more city folk are flocking to the Bay of Quinte area, which is quickly becoming a Canadian retirement hotspot. The region, located roughly between Toronto and Ottawa, includes small cities such as Belleville and Quinte West and the municipalities scattered around them (Tweed, Madoc and Marmora). It also includes the villages and hamlets of Prince Edward County (Picton, Wellington and Bloomfield), along the eastern shores of Lake Ontario, and Sandbanks Provincial Park, arguably one of the most beautiful beaches in Ontario.
Ryan Williams, president of Bay of Quinte Tourism, says retirees are a major demographic moving to the region, and the municipality is actively trying to get the word out to potential residents.
"We have 1,200 kilometres of waterfront, a new marina built in Quinte West and four other marinas, plus 23 golf courses in the area," Mr. Williams says. "We are close to three major cities – Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal – and with the Union-Pearson express being finished next year, a retiree could get a train in Belleville and go by rail all the way to an international airport."
According to a recent Ipsos Reid poll, four out of 10 (38 per cent) Torontonians said that they are "thinking of leaving Toronto because it's too expensive to live here." Mr. Williams says the Bay of Quinte's affordability is another draw for retirees who are looking to downsize but don't want to pay Muskoka prices. According to the Quinte District Association of Realtors, $214,464 was the average home price in October of 2014.
"And for under $400,000, you can get a cottage on the water in Prince Edward County, or for $350,000 you can get a 3,000-square-foot house with a nice backyard in a new community development," Mr. Williams says.
Sandbanks Summer Village, a new cottage community on East Lake, has opened about seven kilometres down the road from Sandbanks Provincial Park. The two-bedroom units, which are open from April to October, run from $190,000 to $470,000 for a waterfront unit, says Howard "Chip" Hall, the development's president.
Mr. Hall says his cottages appeal to retirees because they come with maintenance, plus amenities such as outdoor pavilions, putting greens, pools and a fitness centre.
"We have people getting ready for retirement, who have already downsized their big house, bought a smaller condo and a cottage with us. We call them 'tweeners,' in between condo and cottage," he says. "We have people telecommuting, or consulting from the cottage. Then we have others who are full-blown retirees, who stay in the cottage in the summer and head south for the winter."
When it comes to health care, the Belleville General Hospital recently completed a $100-million addition, opening the new five-storey Sills Wing in 2010. In addition, Neil Carbone, director of community development for Prince Edward County, says the county is actively trying to create the type of developments that will support retirees as they age. One example is their "Age in Place" initiative in Picton, says Mr. Carbone, which will develop a 25-acre parcel of land next to an existing municipal extended-care facility.
"The idea was, let's facilitate a development on these lands that allows retirees to continue to locate in the community, to have the confidence the health care and ancillary services are going to be there as they age and as those services become necessary," he says.
As a result of this initiative, a retirement residence called the Wellings of Picton is being built on the site, says Mr. Carbone, and they are in talks to get the Prince Edward County Family Health Team and a new hospital on the grounds in future. There could also be related commercial aspects, like a pharmacy, a denture clinic or physiotherapy clinic, plus green space and pathways to link all the facilities, he says.
On the lifestyle front, Prince Edward County is a definite draw for retirees, with 30 wineries, a distillery, a microbrewery, artisans, galleries and upscale restaurants/hotels such as the new Drake Devonshire, a small-town expansion of the Toronto-based franchise in Wellington.
Peta Shelton, 64, is the county liaison for the Great Canadian Cheese Festival, one of the area's most popular culinary festivals. She moved to the town of Picton in Prince Edward County in 2010, after retiring from her job as a project manager at CIBC. Ms. Shelton had spent her working life living in urban centres such as Barrie, Richmond Hill, Newmarket and Toronto, but was looking for a smaller community she could make her own.
"I wanted to be within walking distance from the main street, so I could walk to the coffee shop and the library, know the shop-owners by name," Ms. Shelton says. "I wanted to be near a body of water, I wanted culinary and cultural activities in my life. And all those sorts of things added up to this territory."
Like Ms. Shelton, Ms. Pennycook has enjoyed getting involved with her community, joining a quilting club, the horticultural society and sitting on the board of the local library.
"When you join a group, there aren't 500 people in that group," says Ms. Pennycook, 63. "You can get to know the people, and that's what I found the best thing about it. If you volunteer to do things, they love you, and people make you feel very welcome."
Although they will likely move to a condo with less maintenance as they get older, Ms. Pennycook says that she and her husband plan to stay in the Bay of Quinte area.
"We probably won't go back to the GTA (Greater Toronto Area) because it's just too hectic," she says. "I don't think either of us want to go back to the pace and the crowds."