Retiring to the South Okanagan

By Carol Ann Quibell
 as published in Senior Living Magazine – February 2011


I’m not sure this was a choice we wanted to make but retirement was upon us. At our home in Langley, we enjoyed fabulous amenities, but the cost in terms of dollars and the fast pace was not what we had planned for the next phase of our lives. Therefore, we looked further east into the interior of B.C. as a possible place to relocate.

I like lists. It drives people crazy but before I can do anything major, I make lists of pros and cons or a list of relevant information to help me make a decision. So, researching a new home was definitely something to make a list for. What was important to us? What were our needs? What will our budget be? What would we like to have but don’t necessarily need? It became a very extensive list!

We knew we would probably like to settle in the South Okanagan, so we focused on Keremeos, Osoyoos, Oliver, OK Falls and Penticton, and looked at each place in terms of what they have to offer and asked ourselves if we would be comfortable in one of these locations.

Important factors to be considered:

What types of living accommodation is there – houses, condos, townhouses, modular homes? Are there rentals, if we decided to rent for a while? What is the cost of real estate or rent in each area? Is there senior housing, if we needed it in the future?

Is there bus service? Do they have an airport? Is there bike or walking trails? Is it easy to get around the area?

Is there a hospital? Are family doctors or dentists available? Is there a health centre?

High on our list of priorities, it included such things as banking, restaurants, shopping, car repair, grocery stores, churches and a decent hardware store. Is it possible to order a pizza and have it delivered?

Since we were going to be retired, the recreational facilities and availability was important and included golf, curling, skiing, boating, fishing, RVing and walking. I needed to have a library close by to satisfy my insatiable thirst for books. Does each town have an arena or recreation centre? Is there a movie theatre?

Service Organizations:
What is available? We didn’t need anything at the moment, but if we should need assistance in the future, it would be nice to know if we could have a meal delivered or in-home care. Are there volunteer opportunities or service memberships available?

Friends and Family:
How far will we be from our families? Is it possible to still see our friends regularly and is it convenient for them to visit us?
Each community in the South Okanagan is unique in its own way and the decision was a difficult one.

I love this little village, which actually is considered part of the Similkameen. We often stopped here to purchase fruit and vegetables at some of their excellent fruit stands and found people to be very friendly. Terrific services include the South Similkameen Health Centre, but there’s a limited variety of housing. The population is less than 1,500 and most of the recreation facilities are outdoors, such as the ice rink and swimming pool. All of the basic amenities are available and a person could manage well, even though there aren’t a lot of choices.

This growing community is popular with retirees who enjoy the hot and dry summers and mild winters. Situated a couple of kilometres from the Washington State border, Osoyoos probably has most of what retirees need to live comfortably year-round with excellent services. Osoyoos Lake attracts thousands of visitors each year – it’s a popular tourist destination. The population is just under 5,000 and increases extensively during the summer months when the popular hotels and campgrounds are well utilized.

With just under 5,000 residents, the Town of Oliver is a pretty community. Less busy than its neighbour to the south (Osoyoos), there are many options for living arrangements that include detached houses, townhouses, condos and modular home parks. Because the housing costs appear to be lower, many retirees have discovered the benefits of a place where you can practically walk everywhere.

Okanagan Falls
This little community is situated at the south end of Skaha Lake and is known for its fresh fruit, vegetables and its famous summer flea markets. It does have the basics in terms of amenities and for those people who like a small town atmosphere; OK Falls may suit quite well.

Although Penticton still feels like a small town, its population is approximately 45,000 and offers most of the big-city amenities. Situated between Okanagan Lake to the north and Skaha Lake to the south, there is lots to do year-round. Accommodation is varied with plenty of choices and the city tends to cater to retirees and seniors. Most major service organizations for the South Okanagan are either in Penticton or Kelowna to the north.

Each village, town or city in the South Okanagan offers a wide range of options and all are considered part of “Wine Country.” It is always nice to have fresh fruit and vegetables available from local growers and the opportunity to interact with other retirees with common interests. Three ski hills are within easy driving distance and there are ample golf courses to choose from. The international airport in Kelowna is easily accessible and there is bus service to each community. The South Okanagan takes recreation seriously and there are many walking, hiking or cycling trails – plenty of activities to choose from.

We decided to settle down in Oliver, at least for now, and enjoy the small-town atmosphere and the people we have met. Most amenities are available and, if not, it’s only 30-minutes travel to Penticton, which gives us an excuse to go on a small road trip. The town boasts that it is the “Wine Capital of Canada” and offers enough to satisfy our current needs.

If the time comes to relocate, a bit of researching and planning will ease the transition. Happy retirement!

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About Carol Ann 113 Articles
Writer, traveler, RVer sharing her travel logs and information.