“When our beautiful view is the Pacific Ocean and the warm breeze blows through our condo, we hardly feel like we are confined. If we have to stay in for an extended period of time because of Coronavirus restrictions, we are okay with that. We love it here,” says Jo Anne Burrill of her adopted hometown of Coronado.
“It’s always sunny,” adds Jo Anne’s husband, Al, 73. “We’re in the dry region known as the Arco Seco and we get very little rain. With the breeze we have no need for air conditioning.”
“We keep our windows open, so it’s like living on a balcony. I never get tired of seeing the sunrise,” says Jo Anne. “It’s such a beautiful way to wake up, with the window thrown open…so spiritual and so peaceful.”
The couple first visited Panama in 2007, and knew Coronado was the place for them the first time they saw it. Al is typically here from November to May. Jo Anne, an avid downhill skier, usually flies back to upstate New York for six weeks starting in early January.
“Al no longer wants any part of the cold weather,” says Jo Anne. While she enjoys her six weeks in the snow, he attends conferences about overseas investment opportunities and missionary work. It’s a system that works very well for the couple, who enjoy long walks and talks…and some competitive games of dominoes…when they are together in Coronado.
Al had been reading International Living magazine for many years when he and Jo Anne decided to attend a conference in Panama. “After the conference we explored Panama City, David, Boquete, and the Pacific Beaches. The day we visited Coronado Bay was beautiful and sunny, and the black sand sparkled like diamonds.”
Jo Anne turned to Al and said, ‘if we lived here, these are all the diamonds I would ever want.’ That settled it, though they had been there less than a day.
“At the time there was just one Rey grocery store, but I went up and down the aisles and was quite pleased,” says Jo Anne. “They had pretty much everything I was going to want.” Soon another supermarket opened, and then two more. “We really don’t need to go into the city much anymore,” adds Al.
Living in Coronado, the Burrills find there’s no need to own a car. “We walk and bike, and we take buses and the metro or Ubers when we are in the city. But there’s so much here in Coronado we only go to the city when we need to get to the airport or see our lawyer. Now we are legal residents and we reap all the benefits of Panama’s Pensionado program.”
The program offers a quick and easy path to residence for applicants with a pension of at least $1,000 a month. And once you’re a member, you get a local identification card and access to pensioner discounts of 10 to 50% on everything from healthcare to travel and entertainment.
Though Al is retired, he has his U.S. Coast Guard Master Captain’s license and pilots dinner cruises on the Hudson River during the boating season. So for now, the couple continue to live part-time in the U.S.
“Eventually, when we get older and we can no longer tolerate travel to and from our two residences, we’ll sell our home in New York,” says Al. “If necessary, we could add a bedroom to our place here, and hire someone to care for us 24/7 when we reach an advanced age.”
“Some people dream about change,” says Jo Anne. “We did something about it and made our dream a reality. Of course, when we told family and friends that we had purchased a retirement home here, they all thought we had lost our common sense—to put it mildly. But, for us, it continues to be a very wise choice.”