These days, one of your biggest health expenses will likely come late in life: long-term or assisted-living care in your twilight years. If you have aging parents in senior care now, you know how high these costs can run. And by the time you’ll need them? Well, just don’t count on the prices going down.
Fortunately, a new low-cost option is emerging. All over Mexico, savvy developers are planning senior communities with U.S. consumers in mind. They’re including all the top-flight amenities today’s seniors expect: on-site medical staff, assisted-living options, hospice care and more. And their First World features come at affordable Mexican prices.
There have long been Mexican retirement homes in expat havens like Lake Chapala or large cities like Mexico City. But the new trend is on a larger, grander scale.
Nearly 80 million Baby Boomers are nearing retirement age in the U.S. (the first turned 60 in 2006). In addition, about a million U.S. and Canadian expats already live in Mexico. Providing senior care for these groups is potentially a huge growth industry for Mexico. The country has several factors in its favor. It has high-quality medical care, a low cost of labor—and it’s conveniently located right next to its target market.
Setting the Pace for an Emerging Industry
The pace-setter in Mexico’s budding assisted-living industry is Cielito Lindo. This 27,000-square-foot center opened in San Miguel de Allende, in Mexico’s Colonial Highlands, in 2008. It is the brainchild of Sergio Chazaro, a successful local developer who has worked closely with expat clients for years.
Cielito Lindo (www.cielitolindoassistedliving.com) has already made headlines in the Dallas Morning News and ABC World News, among other media outlets. It’s easy to see why. Cielito Lindo offers several levels of senior care, all costing half or less of U.S. prices. For independent living, you can pay as little as $1,250 a month for an unfurnished private villa that sleeps up to two couples. Optional services include everything from medical checkups and caregiver help to meal plans and recreation.
Need full assisted living or Alzheimer’s care for a relative? Get a private suite with kitchenette for $2,250 a month or a large shared bedroom for $1,750 per person. The fee includes round-the-clock caregiver attention, meals and exercise programs, among other things.
Response to Cielito Lindo has been positive. Of the eight assisted living suites in Phase One, all are occupied—by expats. “We’re now at capacity,” says Eric Chazaro, the founder’s son. They plan to add 17 more assisted-living units in the next two years.
In addition, 35 villas for independent living have been sold pre-construction in the last 18 months; 20 of these have already been built.
Though Cielito Lindo is the poster child for full-service senior care, it’s not the only option in Mexico. Other assisted living facilities can be found in Mexico City, San Luis Potosi, Puerto Vallarta and other cities.
In the Puerto Vallarta area, the trend has been toward high-end “active living” communities just for seniors. Most of these offer condo-style accommodation, golf or other active sports, spa services, physical therapy, social programs and other benefits. They also have medical staff available for wellness programs and emergencies. Designed for seniors who want to maximize their active years, they offer members plenty of ways to stay physically and mentally challenged.
However, these communities are not meant for those with long-term illnesses, or who otherwise can’t care for themselves. That’s where assisted living and nursing homes take over.
Outstanding Quality of Care
To date, the retirement industry in Mexico is not regulated as it is in the U.S.—a fact that detractors are quick to point out. The Mexican Association of Retirement Communities (AMAR in Spanish, www.amar.org.mx), formed in 2007 to promote the retirement industry, has talked of the need to develop standards. That is sure to happen eventually.
In the meantime, patients all across Mexico agree on one key benefit that Mexico offers seniors: the warm and personal care they receive from Mexican staff.
Eric Chazaro agrees. “The most valuable thing we offer in Cielito Lindo is the human quality.”
Costa Rica Bids for Your Retirement Dollars, Too
In Costa Rica, several government agencies have joined forces to find ways to cater to U.S. retirees. Plans have already been drawn up for several senior-living communities. At least eight locations have been pinpointed as possible sites.
Last month saw the ground-breaking for Pacific Plaza, a new development in Guanacaste Province specifically designed for the over-55 crowd. Pacific Plaza plans to offer independent living for active adults, assisted living for those needing minimal care and nursing home facilities for those needing full-time care. There are also plans for a satellite hospital affiliated with the CIMA hospital in Escazu, west of San Jose.
Cost of Ageing in the U.S.?
In 2008, the average cost of minimal assisted living care in the U.S. was more than $3,000 a month, according to MetLife Mature Market Institute. Alzheimer’s care, the most costly, on average was double that amount…in a semi-private room.