Friendly and affordable, Brandon stands out as a potential retirement destination
By Wendy Haaf
The friendliness of a small farming community, affordable home prices, and a seemingly never-ending array of things to do are among the assets that make Brandon, MB, stand out as a potential retirement destination.
For one thing, with a population of just 50,000, the pretty prairie city set on the banks of the Assiniboine River is small enough that one can get around with ease, and yet, because it serves another 180,000 people in the surrounding area, it also boasts the services and amenities of a larger centre, including a regional hospital, a college, and a university.
Take recreational facilities, for example. “We’ve got the Brandon University Healthy Living Centre, where you can exercise or use the walking track,” notes long-time Brandonite Bernie Chrisp, “as well as a great YMCA and the Sportsplex, where we have a pool, a skating rink, and racquetball courts.” Curling, cross-country skiing, golfing, lawn bowling, and pickleball are just a few of the other activities you can pursue in or near the city. For spectators, there’s college- and university-level rugby, soccer, basketball, and volleyball, plus excellent junior ice hockey.
Aficionados of the arts, culture, and learning are similarly spoiled for choice. Students from the university’s renowned music program put on performances at various venues throughout the year, including offering free weekly summer concerts in Princess Park, and Western Manitoba Centennial Auditorium’s schedule is packed with events featuring visiting artists and entertainers. A community orchestra, two theatre groups, a school of dance, and a school of theatre and the performing arts regularly showcase their talents, too. Then there are the annual festivals: the Brandon Jazz Festival, the Brandon Festival of the Arts, and the Brandon Folk, Music & Art Festival.
Two other gems in the city’s cultural crown are a public library that offers writing workshops and talks by well-known authors, and the highly regarded Art Gallery of Southwestern Manitoba, which houses studio space. Those who want to expand their minds or learn a new skill can take part in the workshops and classes provided by the library, the gallery, and other local organizations. As a bonus, local retiree Wes Shewchuk says, “the university has a program that lets you audit a course for a nominal fee, and Assiniboine college offers evening classes in things such as photography.”
Retirees who enjoy meeting new people and socializing
can take advantage of programs at two very active clubs: the Brandon Seniors for Seniors Co-Op and the Prairie Oasis Senior Centre. Each organization runs a wide range of programs and activities, such as contract bridge, clogging, dinner and dances, and coffee groups. “They offer so much,” says Lois Burke, who joined Seniors for Seniors when she moved to Brandon six years ago. “People were very kind and generous and helped me adjust to living in a city for the first time,” she adds. “It makes you feel as though, if you don’t have a family close by, you do have a family in these organizations.” What’s more, Burke says, the warm welcome she received from co-op members reflects the atmosphere in Brandon as a whole. “It’s a friendly city.”
Another of Brandon’s assets is the range of
low- and no-cost diversions, from walking tours and outdoor skating to a large multicultural festival and a host of exhibits and events celebrating the area’s agricultural community. “There’s something going on all the time,” Burke says, “and most of it is free, so you can’t say you can’t afford it.”
On the topic of affordability, the cost of homes in Brandon compares favourably with that in many other centres. In March 2018, the average house cost was $281,959 and that of a condominium was $245,666. Moreover, condos aren’t the only option for retirees who want to downsize or forgo home maintenance. “There are a number of seniors’ complexes that have been built on the life-lease concept,” Shewchuk says, as have three active-living communities.
As for health services, Bernie Chrisp says, “We have a well-staffed regional hospital. We’ve used it a few times, and I would give it high praise.”
“Like a lot of places, there isn’t a real abundance of family physicians here,” Shewchuk says, “but if you’re sick, they’ll get you in.”
In addition, Brandon has an extended-care and rehabilitation facility, plus a cancer centre equipped to treat many forms of the disease, so that “a lot of cancer patients no longer have to go into Winnipeg,” Shewchuk says. For those who do, the Shriners run an affordable daily shuttle.
Brandon offers many advantages to retirees who are looking for the friendliness of a small town, with all the amenities they’ll need for a happy, healthy, and social retirement. I