I get on a crowded city bus in Cuenca, Ecuador and immediately two teenagers rise and offer me their seats.
At the bank, where lines can be particularly long on Fridays, Mondays, and paydays, I go to the tercera edad line. This is the special line for seniors over age 65, and pregnant women. There may be two or three people in front of me, but that’s nothing compared to the regular line, where there may be as many as 20 or 30 people on any given day.
When I want to buy a round-trip airline ticket to the U.S. to visit family and friends, I pay only half of the base fare. This is probably the biggest financial benefit of being a senior resident of Ecuador. It’s made it possible for me to fly first class on more than one occasion.
As Ecuadorean senior residents, we are also entitled to a refund of all sales taxes on most products and dining out. As in the U.S., medications and services are not taxable. A nice dinner for two in a classy restaurant, with a bottle of wine, may only cost about $40, so the tax of about $5 may not seem like much, but it adds up. There is, of course, detailed paperwork required for the refund, so I don’t do this every month. I save my receipts and file every quarter. Last quarter I received $128.43, deposited directly into my local checking account.
I also have a senior Cuenca bus pass, granting me a 50% discount on the 25-cent fare. I don’t use it very often, because I like the immediacy of taking a taxi. I can get just about anywhere I want to go for a $2 fare. If I want to take the bus to Guayaquil, or any other town in Ecuador, I get a 50% discount on that fare as well.
Besides all these financial benefits, I’ve found a very special extra bonus—the Ecuadorean people. Don’t speak Spanish yet? An Ecuadorean customer in the pharmacy will most likely come forward and offer to translate for you. If you have gray hair, someone may offer to help you across the street. Men have helped me, and I notice women often come forward to help my husband.
At the nearby university, I wanted to buy a history book in Spanish. Upon entering the campus, I asked a group of three students standing nearby—two guys and a girl—where the bookstore was. They insisted on taking me there, personally walking me all the way across the campus to the bookstore. They wanted to practice their English, and I learned that they were studying mathematics, chemistry, and engineering.
One evening my husband and I went to hear the Cuenca Symphony Orchestra (entry is free because it’s sponsored by the government). A long line waited to enter the building. A nearby couple greeted us in Spanish, took us by the elbows, and walked us to the front of the line! We almost felt guilty, being given what we consider extra special treatment.
For us, the benefits of senior living thrive in Cuenca, Ecuador.