If you’re a home downsizer in Toronto or the GTA, maybe you’re wondering, “Where are the best places to retire in Canada?”
In this month’s Up-Close & Personal, we discuss 55+ communities and introduce you to the idyllic yet vibrant city of Owen Sound, Ontario.
Positioned in the heart of Grey County, Owen Sound also serves as a hub and well-equipped medical centre for residents in nearby Bruce County. Owen Sound blends the tranquility of nature and waterfront living with stimulating cultural activities to offer downsizers an ideal lifestyle for their third age.
Sound Lifestyles is a fourth-generation family business that’s been active in the Grey-Bruce community for more than 100 years. As part of Graham Design & Construction, Sound Lifestyles designs, builds, and manages housing exclusively for those in their mid-50s and older.
We sat down with Richard Graham, CEO, and Katie Graham, Vice President, of Sound Lifestyles to ask why downsizers might want to make their new home in Owen Sound. We also talked about how accessible housing and 55-plus communities help people live in place (or age in place).
Up-Close & Personal with Richard Graham and Katie Graham
Richard Graham: Owen Sound is over 180 years old and has a unique history. It’s a beautiful natural area at the base of the Bruce Peninsula. It’s 20 minutes away from Sauble Beach, 45 minutes from the Blue Mountain Resort, and two hours from the Toronto airport.
Katie Graham: Because the community is smaller, it’s safer. We have shopping facilities, including large box stores. We also have local cultural events like the Salmon Spectacular and the Summerfolk festival, as well as the Roxy Theatre and the Tom Thomson Art Gallery.
Certain other communities around Grey-Bruce are viable during tourist times, but Owen Sound is viable twelve months of the year. And Owen Sound’s health care services are on par with those in many metropolitan areas.
Transitions Realty: You emphasize integrating active living communities with fully accessible environments. What does “fully accessible” mean? How do accessible homes benefit people 55 and older?
Richard Graham: Fully accessible encompasses comfort, safety, and the need not to have to move again as our health deteriorates or as we age and our physical capabilities change.
Katie Graham: Some people think accessibility just means one level to get into the suite. But there needs to be wide hallways and large washrooms. There’s also the walking distance for someone to go from their car to their front door. It’s also important to have enough space for a home care provider to work efficiently and effectively.
Transitions Realty: We believe third-age homes should enable people to live in place. How do your communities permit aging in place?
Richard Graham: The number one point is accessibility. Number two is no worry about home maintenance. Number three: It’s an environment with people of a similar age group. The fourth aspect is being part of a community within a community that has similar needs and has the buying power to provide services.
Katie Graham: For example, we have an associate business that provides a chauffeur service, with special rates for our residents. This means they don’t have to use their car if they don’t want to drive in the winter or if nighttime driving is a concern.
Richard Graham: Compared with surrounding communities, Owen Sound offers less costly living. In our developments, it’s about managing costs effectively. And equity growth is something we manage so the value of your investment grows.
Katie Graham: It’s our business to manage multi-residential buildings. With our buying power, we’re able to get cost-effective services for our residents. Also, we have the professional knowledge to ensure our homes are managed cost-effectively.
Transitions Realty: Downsizers buy homes in your communities through an Ontario life lease arrangement. What’s the advantage of a life lease over buying a condo unit?
Richard Graham: Life leases are designed for the retirement community, and condos are designed for all age groups. A life lease gives the owner comfort knowing that professionals are working hard to ensure their investment continues to grow. In a condo, the developer is gone once all suites are sold, and the owners are left to manage the building on their own.
Katie Graham: With life leases, more costs are included in the reserve fund, in comparison to condos. So, if a resident’s water heater breaks down, they don’t have to call a plumber; they would call the property manager, and they wouldn’t pay out of pocket.
Transitions Realty: Your upcoming development, Marina View Heights, has six units. Some are still up for sale. Tell us more.
Katie Graham: The suites offer high-end finishes and features. Three-bedroom suites, with two fully accessible washrooms in a 1,700-square-foot unit. And you’re minutes away from beautiful Kelso Beach.
Richard Graham: Marina View Heights offers a unique location, with an incredible view of the bay and two yacht clubs. It’s minutes away from two incredibly good golf courses. It’s a ten-minute walk away from downtown Owen Sound. We’re not just selling bricks and mortar. We’re selling a lifestyle.