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Should You Consider Assisted Living South of the Border?

By Virginia MoreyDecember 15, 2017
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Americans and Canadians alike have vacationed in and retired to Mexico for many decades, but in recent years, our neighbor to the south has also become a destination for seniors in search of assisted living communities.

Assisted Living South of the Border

Seniors in Mexico have traditionally been cared for at home by family members, but, like their counterparts to the north, they’re living longer, and eventually require the same amenities and services as that in an assisted living setting.

The influx of expatriate retirees has expanded options for them as well.

Why Mexico?

  1. Close to home. There are more than 100 national and international airports in Mexico. The busiest by far is Benito Juarez International Airport in Mexico City, but many other airports have non-stop flights to destinations in Canada and the U.S. Costs associated with travel are more than outweighed by the overall cost-of-living savings and, let’s face it, adult children and their parents often live hundreds or thousands of miles apart, anyway.
  2. Excellent healthcare. Medical professionals are as well-trained as their counterparts, and healthcare facilities are modern and top notch. Care workers in assisted living communities are paid a good living wage and valued as professionals in their field. A reverence for older people and the tradition of caring for parents and grandparents in the home seems to translate to compassionate caregivers who treat patients and clients as warmly as they do their own family.
    • U.S. citizens have been traveling to Mexico for affordable health care for decades, seeking everything from elective procedures to life-saving surgery. Prescriptions and dental and medical care cost a fraction of what they do in the U.S. – dentistry in the States is especially costly for seniors, who aren’t provided coverage through Medicare and can’t always afford skyrocketing dental insurance premiums.
  3. Hospitality. “We are used to having people from all over the world living in and visiting our country,” says Dileri Montalvo Berumen, a spokesperson for Belmont Village, a U.S.-based senior living community which recently opened its first assisted living community in Mexico City. “We love to make them feel at home.”
  4. Lower cost of living. The most obvious benefit is financial, particularly as people live longer. For those on a fixed income, the fact that total costs amount to approximately one-third of equivalent care in the U.S. can be irresistible.
  5. Temperate climate. Mexico’s warmer temperatures appeal to northerners who have had it up to their eyeballs with frigid temperatures and snow drifts.

What About…

  1. Altitude? A wide range of assisted living, independent and retirement communities are located in the Tierra Templada, or “temperate lands,” which range from around 2,500 feet to 7,500 hundred feet in elevation. (Mexico City rests at about 7,400 feet.) While seniors with pulmonary concerns should consult a physician before transitioning to a high altitude, most are likely to acclimate within a few days.
  2. Health insurance? With only a few exceptions, Medicare is not valid outside the U.S.: for seniors who live in Mexico but maintain Medicare insurance, any major procedures or medical emergencies would require travel back over the border or private insurance.
  3. Personal safety? People who have never visited Mexico may harbor an outdated perception of the world’s tenth largest country by population. Mexico boasts a stable economy, sound infrastructure and a growing roster of foreign investors. Seniors in assisted living communities will likely feel as secure and protected as they do in a comparable facility in the U.S.
  4. The language barrier? While knowing Spanish is helpful, it’s not necessary, particularly in established life plan communities that employ bilingual, highly skilled staff.

Where Should I Start Looking?

Numerous cities and towns already have highly regarded senior communities that encompass everything from independent living to memory care, but more facilities are being developed to address the growing need.

Areas with thriving, well-established expat communities include:

  • Ajijic/Chapala/Guadalajara
  • Baja California
  • Campeche
  • Cuernavaca
  • Guanajuato
  • Merida
  • Morelia and Patzcuaro
  • Puerto Vallarta
  • Queretaro
  • San Miguel de Allende
  • Tepoztlan

Belmont Village, which recently opened Belmont Village Santa Fe in Mexico City, has plans to open four more senior living communities in Mexico in the next years.

“Senior living may be a new industry in our country, but we’ve implemented all the same programs and processes that have been established during the company’s 20 years of operation in the United States, which means we offer top-of-the-line care,” says Montalvo.

In addition to the staff at Belmont Village Santa Fe, which includes a doctor and registered nurses on-site 24 hours a day, all caregivers are trained, technical nurses. The location is also hard to beat. “We are connected by a walking bridge to Centro Medico ABC, the best private medical center in the country, and have an agreement with them to attend to all our emergencies in less than five minutes,” Montalvo says.

Ways to Retire in Mexico

For retirees who are considering aging in place in Mexico, the Mexperience website offers a wealth of practical information to guide seniors through the process of making of relocation. Many people move to Mexico because doing so enables them to retire early.

One of the most popular programs available to all senior citizens who live in Mexico is the INAPAM (Instituto Nacional para las Personas Adultas Mayores) discount card, which offers those aged 60 and above savings ranging from 10-50% on certain services, activities and goods, including reduced prices on medications that are already much more affordable than in the U.S.

Moving to another country late in life is a big step for seniors, but one that is growing more commonplace with each passing year. If you or a loved one are considering Mexican residency, it’s not too early to start investigating the options and maybe brush up on your high school Spanish while you’re at it.

Have you or a senior loved one considered assisted living south of the border? We’d like to hear your thoughts and stories in the comments below.

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Virginia Morey