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Other Retirement Living Options

Retirement Housing Options

If retirement homes don't seem to be the right option for you at this time, there are other types of housing that might meet your needs. While the care component in these options might be less or different to that in a retirement home, the independence factor remains and, in some settings, little if any assistance would be provided with respect to personal care and household tasks unless purchased independently through an agency or private company.

Supportive Housing

Some seniors' rental apartment buildings offer something called 'supportive housing services'. This means that if required, the provision of minimal to moderate care through personal support (which may include: daily visits/check-ins, bathing & dressing, assistance with shopping, meals and transportation) and/or homemaking services is available to residents of that building. There is usually a contract that details the care arrangement between the organization that is providing the services and the person receiving it. Apartments with this option may make it possible for a senior to remain independent, in their own home, for a longer period of time than if they lived in an apartment without supportive housing services available. In some instances, this type of service is offered in a setting adjacent/connected to other homes (i.e. long-term care homes), which allows for residents to utilize some of the services or amenities in that adjoining home.

Personal support and homemaking services coordinated through the CCAC are usually not available to residents of these buildings if those services are available within the building (services are usually contracted through a local community agency). The ownership, operation, funding base and administration of monies for such structures varies and may come from municipal governments, the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care (MOHLTC), the Ministry of Housing, not-for-profit organization such as a church, seniors' organization, cultural group or a different agency. As a result, accommodation, care requirements, service providers, on-site services (e.g. personal care and homemaking) subsidies and cost factors may differ from one residence to another. Rental costs are based on market rates however some may have available subsidies for eligible applicants. Contact the building you are interested in directly to inquire about the application process, waiting list for service and amount of care available. There is usually a waiting list for entrance into these buildings. The Residential Tenancies Act governs the housing portion of the accommodation. In some buildings the care/service portion is legislated by the Long-Term Care Homes Act. In these buildings the MOHLTC provides funding to (and monitors) providers to deliver personal care and support services to eligible clients.

There are several ways to locate information of Supportive Housing Complexes in your area. In Toronto, you may wish to contact Housing Connections at (416) 981-6111 or visit for information on buildings in that region. You can also contact your local CCAC or community support/seniors agency to ask if they have a list or information on senior supportive housing complexes/ providers in your area. The website for the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing ( has information on specific "Affordable Housing" projects. The website for The Ontario Non-Profit Housing Association ( contains contact information on region specific groups ("access centres") that can provide information or applications for social housing complexes in Ontario (click on the "Looking for Housing?" link on their home page). The website for OANHSS ( contains listings of members of their organization by area – this includes those that offer "Seniors' Housing". Additionally, a quick search of the internet will display several websites specifically detailing Information about 'social housing' and 'supportive housing' for seniors in different areas of the province.

Life Lease/Life Equity Housing

A relatively new housing option in retirement living for older adults is that of Life Lease or Life Equity structures. Usually, one would purchase a leasehold interest (the terms of which vary depending on the development) in a property when they are healthy. It is usually an apartment building type structure similar to a condominium in terms of unit size, features and monthly maintenance fees. The purchase price and maintenance costs are presumably more affordable than other traditional housing in the area of the city/province that the building is constructed in. Unlike a condominium, the tenant does not have to pay GST and Land Transfer Tax. The corporation (usually a non-profit or charitable organization) holds title to the property. It sets the criteria/eligibility guidelines (e.g. the age of the purchaser) of who may purchase a leasehold interest (which is the right to reside in the unit you choose and share use of the common amenities with other residents) in that structure. There is a monthly maintenance fee and the corporation maintains and manages the building. One potential benefit for the person who purchases a 'Life Lease' on this type of unit, is that (s)he may be able to remain in their own home even if their care needs increase (potentially it allows for "Aging in Place"). This is because many of the structures being built are connected to/with other seniors' resources; part of this housing option is often the availability of on-site support services (which usually need to be purchased for a small cost), through an affiliated seniors' agency, that can be utilized as needed. Depending on the residence, this may include: housekeeping (assistance with laundry, meals, cleaning), personal care (bathing and dressing), emergency call systems, dining/meal services, transportation, nearby or on-site amenities and activities/ recreational and social services.

The units may have special safety features and fixtures designed for the seniors' needs (e.g. grab bars in the bathroom). The amenities available, purchase price, maintenance fees and costs to purchase services will vary depending on the complex/building. Unlike standard condominiums, the government does not regulate Life Lease structures. As such, it is important when looking into this option that you do some research and ask many questions to ensure that your needs can be met both financially and physically, now and in the future, if your health declines. As well, be sure to ask about their policies around terminating a leasehold interest and what equity would be returned or paid to you upon a decision to vacate. (In most complexes, when the owner of a leasehold interest (or his estate) wishes to terminate the agreement, he/she receives funds based on the market-value of the leasehold interest of the unit. There are some complexes however that are based on a different model and the entitlement to increased equity at the sale or transfer of the leasehold interest is linked to the amount of the initial payment).

It may also be wise to review all documents with a lawyer and ensure you have a clear understanding of all of the terms of the agreement prior to signing anything. If you are purchasing a life lease in a complex prior to construction being completed, you might want to research the organization that is sponsoring the structure and will hold title to it, to find out what they have been involved with in the past and what their reputation is. There does not appear to be one comprehensive list of available Life Lease structures in the province; there are many in existence already and several in the construction phase across Ontario. A quick search of the internet will provide you with websites of several projects and articles related to this housing option. Since many structures/projects/complexes are affiliated with not-for-profit organizations, you may wish to contact OANHSS at (905) 851-8821 for information on buildings that are members of their association. Their website, has links to websites of companies that assist with the planning of Life Lease structures in Ontario. Additionally, The Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing has researched this housing option and can be contacted by consumers interested in/considering purchasing a Life Lease unit. The general information number for the Market Housing Branch of the Ministry is (416) 585-7544.

Luxury Senior Condominium Complexes

Another relatively new housing opportunity for seniors which is growing in popularity and construction in recent years is a twist on a concept that has been around for some time. Developers are building independent condominium units (as townhomes or in apartment type structures) for purchase (&/or rent) that are specifically geared to seniors. Many will have special features like grab bars, lower light switches and easy to turn door handles. Most will have a choice of service packages/amenities included for a set fee per month. Suites all have full kitchens but many will also have meal packages available. Some are affiliated with retirement homes or can provide extra care if necessary for a fee. While it is geared to the independent senior, it has the potential for "aging in place" as well. A number of these developments in the Greater Toronto and surrounding area are detailed on our website.

Esther Goldstein, B.Sc., B.S.W., RSW



Lumino Health
Comprehensive Guide to Retirement Living in Canada

Comprehensive Guide to Retirement Living®
(FREE PDF Download)

Canada-wide – 22nd Edition

  • What is a Retirement Residence? and Who Needs One?
  • Retirement Residence & Long-Term Care Visiting Tips –Important Questions to Ask and Things to Look For when touring
  • Emotional Aspects of Relocation
  • How to Make the Transition Easier
  • What if a Retirement Community is not the Right Option?
  • What is Long-Term Care?
  • Community Resources
  • Housing Options
  • Resource information on goods and services for seniors
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