Snowbirds, Canadians heading South for warmth, beaches, golf and relaxation are fueling a growing trend toward winter in sunshine. In the past few years, the 55 and over Canuck brigade made 488,000 trips outside Canada, a 13% increase over earlier exoduses.
A snowbird is actually a person, a Canadian and not a bird. Since 1923, it describes seasonal vacationers heading South for winter. By 1979, it referred to extraordinary retired Canadians flocking sunward.
Canada has 10 provinces, three territories, but November to April, Florida is our Southern outpost. When winter sinks its frigid teeth into La Belle Province and the rest of Canada, 2.5 million nationals seek sunshine in retiree promised land; active baby boomers, wealthy, well-educated, very easily adaped to Snowbird lifestyle, with perfect reasons for escaping winter.
After a certain age, slipping on ice is dangerous, shoveling snow strenuous, and frigid outdoors unbearable. Fleeing bitter cold, ice and snow prevents injuries and promotes healthy habits and not just getting that perfect tan. Florida realtors claim that by 2025 one in five Florida residents will be baby boomers who retired at least four years ago.
Laval en Floride
Numerous Snowbirds, Lavallers among them, spend six months in sunny winter homes, around Deerfield, Hollywood, Lauderdale, West Palm. French Canadians, Italians, Greeks, and Jewish groups dominate these hot spots. Although sun destinations vary, most head to popular welcoming climates and friendly environments in Florida. Southern California, Nevada, Arizona, and Texas.
In the Snowbird dream, it might be hard to believe that seniors become lonely, leaving family and friends to become outsiders. Settling in the right location is one thing, but happy Snowbirds thrive in inviting communities, places where they feel welcomed and make friends easily.
Lavallers in Deerfield
TLN caught up with Laval Snowbird Ida Teolis Venafro in Deerfield Beach. “I’ve been coming since 2007 because of extreme weather back home.” Medical insurance: “I’m in relatively good health, so insurance isn’t an issue, but I supplement Medicare with added insurance for five months.”
It seems that fewer Canadians go to Florida for longer periods, especially when the loonie falls, spending less, although they still enjoy the sunshine and comfort. A large and active contingent of retirees stays as the law permits – 182 days per year before losing Medicare benefits.
Governments have put brakes on rising health expenditures for Snowbirds accustomed to treatment in American hospitals and claiming reimbursement in Canada. Snowbirds pay high prices for insurance to cover what Canada doesn’t. Without which they risk major financial hospitalization burdens. Enough to land in the poor house.
Home away from home
Of safety and low dollar, Venafro answered: ”I feel very safe in my community, surrounded by very good friends always on the lookout for me since I live alone. The exchange rate does limit my shopping. I only buy at good sales. I’m not limited with groceries. I always make sure I don’t compromise on food, especially when entertaining, but trips to Macy’s are less frequent.”
What did she dislike about Florida? “The way people drive. They’re all in a hurry and there are some crazy drivers, too many accidents. They’re all hitting 100 and the young ones are aggressive. But this is home for at least six months,” she concluded, pleasant laughter in her voice.
Journal de Montréal, sun and sand
The Maple Leaf and Star Spangled Banner flutter everywhere in unison, Canadian newspapers and French TV readily available, shared with plenty of Canuck neighbors. Premiers, prime ministers, pop stars and sports teams all vacation here.
“It’s at least 30 below back home, the worst winter I’ve ever seen in a while,” Lavaller Fernanda Recine Spina tells TLN. “I’m so grateful to be here whenever I wish, living the good life; even though the Canadian dollar has plunged below 76 cents; the benefits are still worth it.”
Studies indicate that 63% of Snowbirds rate their health from very good to excellent. Those who don’t soar away, and stay in one place year-round, are reported to have less than desirable health. Snowbirds enjoy better health and wellness under sun, on sand.