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Grandfather and grandson on a fishing adventureDimensions/iStockPhoto / Getty Images

No longer needing to live near work, some retirees face a big decision: move closer to kids and grandkids or strike off in an entirely different direction.

John Hamblin, 75, sees the move he and his wife Peggy made last fall from Halifax to live near their daughter and granddaughters in Saint John, N.B. as “a benefit and a pleasure.”

If his daughter and her partner are too busy to pick up their 12 and 14-year-old kids after school, the Hamblins can do the job. They play cribbage and card games.

The kids are great, stresses Mr. Hamblin, who clearly doesn’t consider time spent with family as a chore. Even when the Hamblins are at their vacation home in Arizona, there are regular video calls with their daughter and granddaughters.

The Hamblins had lived in Halifax for 20 years. Their new home in the Saint John suburb of Rothsay is four hours away from Halifax by car, so if they want to visit old friends, they still can, Mr. Hamblin says.

The couple downsized from a large house to what his granddaughter calls a “hobbit house,” he says.

Statistics Canada shows close to 18,500 Canadians 65 and older moved between provinces in 2020-21. Add in those who move within their home province and that’s a lot of older adults on the move.

Some aren’t moving closer to their kids.

Canmore, Alta. real estate agent Jessica Stoner says about half of her clientele are retirees moving to the mountain resort town. Recreation is the draw, not family, she says.

“They’re coming here to ski and hike and mountain bike and golf. Age does not mean much to these people,” Ms. Stoner says. “Kids can pick up and move across the country for a new job at any given time, so parents are not moving to where the kids are because they don’t know if it’s permanent.”

Retirees are buying in all parts of the market, she says. Some purchase small condos because they intend to snowbird or travel extensively while others buy large homes to fit visiting family and friends.

“Over the last couple of years, we’ve seen the necessity for a second living space [within the home] and that’s where the kids and the grandkids go to play their video games,” Ms. Stoner says. “It has to be able to accommodate extended family for limited periods of time.”

She understands this trend from her own family experience:

“My own parents retired to the cottage in Ontario. They expanded it, so it’s not considered a cottage anymore. They built their forever home and it’s designed to be there until the end,” Ms. Stoner says.

Wendy Walker and her husband moved from Vancouver to Qualicum Beach, B.C., in 1998 after she retired. Their grandchildren were in Vancouver, but she always liked Qualicum Beach, a popular tourist destination on Vancouver Island.

Her family has visited over the years, but now her daughter, who lives in Kelowna, worries about the sometimes difficult ferry schedules if something happens to Ms. Walker, who is divorced and living on her own. So now, at age 88, Ms. Walker is planning to relocate to Kelowna.

“It’s a big move for me now,” she says. “This is life I suppose. We move around more.”

McMaster University geography professor Bruce Newbold, who has studied seniors and migration, says there are three main reasons why retirees move; a desire to be close to family, the wish to retire “home” to the place from your past you’re most familiar with, and the amenity-oriented migration to places like cottage country and tourist havens.

If your kids live in a lovely spot that’s a double bonus.

“The place needs to be able to sell itself or be attractive. Family is important but, in my mind, there have to be other pieces there,” says Dr. Newbold, adding that retirees often want to move when they first retire and are still healthy.

Plus, moving is costly and stressful.

“There’s the cost of housing and the cost of moving across the country or province. There’s also the need to recreate social networks,” he says. “Wherever you end up, who are you interacting with and how easy is it to become engaged in the community? It can take a while to set that up. For someone moving at 65, it’s easier than someone who is 85.”

The StatsCan figures back up the age factor showing that, in 2020 to 2021, 8,848 people between 65 and 70 moved provinces, while only 1,384 between 80 and 84 made an interprovincial move.

Jim Dunn, professor of health, aging and society at McMaster, says seniors need to consider their long-term needs when they make a move.

“What is going to be the kind of housing that’s going to give you independence? Where are you going to live when you can’t drive anymore? And where are the support services?” he says. “You ought to be thinking by your late 70s, at the latest, about where you’re going to be living the rest of your life.”

Arne Hetherington, a retired teacher now living on Saltspring Island, B.C. did his PhD dissertation at the University of Victoria on the implications of leisure planning for retirement.

Some retirees, pressed into serving as childminders for their grandchildren, can feel resentful. Others find a close relationship with children and grandchildren gives them a feeling of fulfilment, Mr. Hetherington says.

“It’s a good way to avoid isolation as people get older and they lose the social component of employment,” she says.

“Before the move is made, you want to make sure you move for the right reason, not as a sense of obligation but as an opportunity to benefit yourself and the other party as well.”

Mr. Hamblin agrees not everyone wants the kind of move he and his wife have chosen.

“Some people don’t get along with their kids. Some people in our age range feel their kids are trying to control and monitor their life and aren’t thrilled with that,” he says. “And it could be good to have a little separation.”

“But I think it’s still nice to be close. You can go and visit and keep up to date.”

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