Retire in the Prettiest Town in Ontario

If you ask people in Ontario to describe the town of Niagara-on-the-Lake, they tend to use words such as quaint, pretty, and charming. It was, after all, named “The Prettiest Town in Canada” in the 1996 Communities in Bloom competition. But these are only some of the reasons why so many older adults are choosing Niagara-on-the-Lake (“NOTL” to local residents) as their retirement community. For them, real estate options, leisure activities, health care services, and climate are also deciding factors.

Niagara-on-the-Lake is perched at the spot where the Niagara River meets Lake Ontario in a southern part of the province of Ontario. Just across the river is the state of New York in the U.S.A. With moderating winds from the lake and shelter provided by the Niagara escarpment, it offers slightly warmer winters than other Ontario locations (important in the Canadian climate!). Its geography also means the region is perfect for wine-making and growing local produce – residents and visitors enjoy local wineries and markets that give you the friendly, country-living feel.

Not big city, but near big city

Retirees who have been used to living in the nearby Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area appreciate NOTL because it offers a slower pace while still being close to big city services and entertainment. And although it’s known for a quieter lifestyle, NOTL is not sleepy – there are lots of activities, such as fine dining, golf, boating, and theatre (including the popular Shaw Festival), as well as everything offered 20 minutes away in the flashy tourist zones close to Niagara Falls.

Living in NOTL

About 15,000 people call NOTL home, with 25% of those over 65 years of age. Town services are plenty, with daily drop-in programs for seniors at the community centre. Public transit exists on a few routes, but service is sparse so most people travel by car. Taxi service is also available, along with volunteer-based services to help those in need to travel around town.

Health care options have been evolving in the town and in the nearby city of St. Catharines, where a new, one-million-square-foot hospital has improved services to surrounding areas, especially in cancer care, cardiac care, and mental health. A medical centre right in town houses family physicians, providers such as dieticians and social workers, and programming for those living with chronic conditions like diabetes, asthma, and high blood pressure. The physicians also provide after-hours care for urgent needs.

New housing development is often geared toward the older crowd, usually advertising active retirement living. You can find condominium apartments, townhomes, and detached homes, including one-floor living. Other residences provide assisted living for those needing long-term care.

A sense of belonging

Choosing a place to live in your retirement years is very much about a feeling of comfort and belonging. Many people get that “I could live here” feeling when visiting NOTL, whether they’ve come for an overnight getaway, a winery tour, or to visit a friend who has already settled in. Once the freshness of the countryside has you breathing easier, and the elegance of the main street draws you in, you too might want to stay forever!

Top Photo: Restaurant in Niagara-on-the-Lake, some rights reserved by Tamara Smith