Many retirees have similar wish lists when they downsize, including a low-maintenance home with minimal stairs and an affordable price tag. But from there, the criteria are as diverse as retirees themselves. Snowbirds want a secure, low-maintenance place they can just lock up and leave when they head south for three months. People seeking a change from decades in the suburbs might look for an urban pied-à-terre with good transit so that they can sell their car. On the other hand, they might keep the vehicle and finally move to the small town they’ve been dreaming about
for years. Fortunately, the Ottawa region has something for all of them.
With its Victorian mills converted into museums or loft apartments, its location on the Mississippi River, and a higher concentration of charming shops and restaurants than a village of 5,000 people really has a right to, Almonte is pretty much the textbook definition of “picturesque.” If you’re a fan of festivals, you’ve come to the right place, as Almonte hosts everything from a VW camper-van jamboree and a Celtic music fest in July to a Christmas celebration of lights. Add to that the fact that Almonte is only 30 kilometres from Kanata — so you can still get your fix of big-screen movies and big-box stores when you crave them — and the attractions of Almonte as a retirement destination become even clearer. Perhaps that’s why one-quarter of the residents are 65 or older. The historic village centre is ringed with newish developments, so you may have luck finding a modern bungalow.
Borders: Residential area of Almonte village
Condo prices (monthly average): $249,967 to $339,760
Condos sold last year: 17
Non-condo prices (monthly average): $287,380 to $408,470
Non-condos sold last year: 112
People who go to work by car: 90%
If your retirement fantasies involve quiet evenings in your garden, perhaps Little Italy/Chinatown isn’t for you. Big backyards are rare and come with correspondingly big price tags, and proximity to the Queensway and busy Preston Street means you’d be more likely to hear engines than crickets. However, if you’d like to downsize into a pocket-sized condo, this would be a great spot for your pied-à-terre. Parking is at a premium, but if you wanted to ditch your car, you could. Countless restaurants, specialty food shops, Dow’s Lake, the Gladstone Theatre, Absolute Comedy, and the Plant Recreation Centre are within walking distance, and a Trillium Line station at Carling (with another proposed at Preston Street and Gladstone Avenue) brings the rest of the city within reach. And if easy access to health care is a priority, you can’t get much closer to the new Civic campus of the Ottawa Hospital, due to open in 2026.
Borders: Bayswater Avenue, the Queensway, the O-Train line, Somerset Street West, Bronson Avenue, Carling Avenue
Condo prices (monthly average): $297,200 to $558,125
Condos sold last year: 41
Non-condo prices (monthly average): $449,900 to $714,517
Non-condos sold last year: 45
People who go to work by car: 41%
If you’re sold on the idea of a condo but would like more room to move around — indoors and out — than the typical downtown flat usually affords, Beaverbrook may just be the solution. In general, you get more square feet for your money here than you would downtown, plus you get easy access to the parks and golf courses that make Kanata one of Ottawa’s leafiest burbs. One neighbourhood hub is the John G Mlacak Community Centre, which brings everything from a library and a seniors’ centre to an ice rink and an art gallery under one roof. Hockey fans don’t have far to go to cheer on the Senators at the Canadian Tire Centre, while those who like a little retail therapy can head to Kanata Centrum or Tanger Outlets.
Borders: March Road, Steacie Drive, Kimmins Court, greenspace just east of Weslock Way and Knudson Drive, the Queensway
Condo prices (monthly average): $220,140 to $356,280
Condos sold last year: 71
Non-condo prices (monthly average): $344,229 to $634,900
Non-condos sold last year: 57
People who go to work by car: 76%
The Russell Township website blares “3rd best place to live in Canada.” The claim is based on a 2018 ranking of Canadian communities by MoneySense magazine, and the village of Russell vaulted from 21st place to third on the strength of its affordability and low crime rate — both of which make it appealing to empty nesters. If you want to shed your big urban home but still want a yard, a porch, and parking, the village of 4,500 just beyond Ottawa’s southeastern edge is worth checking out. Basics such as a supermarket, hardware store, bank, gas station, and dentist office are close at hand, while a wider selection of services — including a four-season sports dome with a walking track, gym, tennis court, and more — are available 10 kilometres away in Embrun. It’s a 40-kilometre drive to Ottawa City Hall, if you do need to come back into the city.
Borders: Village of Russell
Condo prices (monthly average): $165,000 to $274,900
Condos sold last year: 3
Non-condo prices (monthly average): $305,588 to $432,720
Non-condos sold last year: 144
People who go to work by car: 91%
Meet the neighbours in Russell:
Mae moved to her two-bedroom apartment in Russell five years ago.
We talked to her about why she chose Russell, and why she loves her ’hood.
Your street: It’s a seniors’ street. There is a retirement home beside my building and a condo building nearby — mostly seniors in there too, and they have an arrangement where they can go to the Meadows [Retirement Community] for meals once a day. There’s signage to say it’s a seniors’ area, and there’s a park nearby — they keep the paths clear in the winter, which is great.
Previous residences: During my last years in Whitehorse, I lived in a basement apartment to save for retirement. It was comfortable and safe — I rented from a family who lived upstairs — and I could walk to work. Then I bought a townhouse in Embrun as an investment and spent nine years there before selling and getting a rental apartment within walking distance of my son, who lives in Russell with his family.
Prime motivators: To be closer to the boys. My other son lives in Toronto, but I didn’t want to move to the city. And to be close to my grandchildren — so they can have a grandparent. When I grew up in Iroquois Falls we didn’t have a grandparent close by. My grandchildren keep me moving. You grow with them. My son calls me the third parent.
Favourite places in the ’hood: I walk four miles a day, so I spend a lot of time on the old railway path, which runs from my son’s house to Embrun. I like the arena for exercise classes. And there’s the sports dome — I prefer to be outside, but in really bad weather, you go there to walk. Foodland is within walking distance, though I drive when I need to. I attend a Bible study at a friend’s house, and once a month I cook for about 50 people at the ecumenical ladies’ lunch. And of course, I spend a lot of time at my son’s house.
If you’re seeking a ’hood where at least some of your neighbours remember Woodstock, the odds are good in Woodpark/Woodroffe: one in three residents is 65 or older, more than double the city-wide average. And while it’s not as pedestrian-friendly as Little Italy/Chinatown, it’s not a bad choice if you want to drive less. Carlingwood Shopping Centre offers a supermarket, a drugstore, several banks, and a YMCA-YWCA with a pool. Nearby, you’ll find an Ottawa Public Library branch and a cluster of big-box stores. OC Transpo’s route 87 will take you from the corner of Richmond and Woodroffe to downtown in about half an hour. And the neighbourhood may have an LRT station at the corner of Richmond Road and New Orchard Avenue by 2025. That possibility already has developers salivating, and city council has approved a controversial 20-storey rental apartment tower at Richmond and Woodroffe.
Borders: Sir John A. Macdonald Parkway, Woodroffe Avenue, Carling Avenue
Condo prices (monthly average): $212,360 to $328,825
Condos sold last year: 81
Non-condo prices (monthly average): $475,000 to $712,722
Non-condos sold last year: 27
People who go to work by car: 59%