Seniors head south to Mexican nursing homes
After Jean Douglas turned 70, she realized she couldn't take care of herself anymore. Her knees were giving out, and winters in Bandon, Ore., were getting harder to bear alone.According to USA Today, retirement homes are relatively new in Mexico and there's little government regulation, but the U.S. Embassy doesn't report any complaints against Mexican nursing homes. That doesn't mean residents haven't complained though. One woman reported her home was staffed by "gossips and thieves" and another claimed "It was filthy, and the food was very bad. It was all made in the microwave."
[...] After searching the Internet for other options, she joined a small but steadily growing number of Americans who are moving across the border to nursing homes in Mexico, where the sun is bright and the living is cheap.
For $1,300 a month — a quarter of what an average nursing home costs in Oregon — Douglas gets a studio apartment, three meals a day, laundry and cleaning service, and 24-hour care from an attentive staff, many of whom speak English. She wakes up every morning next to a glimmering mountain lake, and the average annual high temperature is a toasty 79 degrees.
Those are legitimate complaints, but they're also similar to ones lodged against nursing homes here in the U.S. My mother is in a nursing home and she often complains about people stealing from her, but 90% of the time the missing item ends up being found in her wastebasket or pocket. Gossip is one of her complaints too, yet she's guilty of the same behavior. I think some old people just like to complain. That's not the case for this gentleman:
Residents such as Richard Slater say they are happy in Mexico. Slater came to Lake Chapala four years ago and now lives in his own cottage at the Casa de Ancianos, surrounded by purple bougainvillea and pomegranate trees.Hmmm...the health care issue could be a problem. I haven't really heard much about the quality of health care in Mexico. Slater relies on the Mexican SSI, which runs clinics and hospitals nationwide and allows foreigners to enroll in its program even if they never worked in Mexico or paid taxes to support the system, because Medicare, Medicaid, the Department of Veterans Affairs and most U.S. insurance companies will not cover care or medicine as long as patients are outside the United States. Slater has firsthand experience with their medical care though. He recently had gallbladder surgery and reports he paid nothing.
He has plenty of room for his two dogs and has a little patio that he shares with three other American residents. He gets 24-hour nursing care and three meals a day, cooked in a homey kitchen and served in a sun-washed dining room. His cottage has a living room, bedroom, kitchenette, bathroom and a walk-in closet.
For this Slater pays $550 a month, less than one-tenth of the going rate back home in Las Vegas. For another $140 a year, he gets full medical coverage from the Mexican government, including all his medicine and insulin for diabetes.
Any doubts Americans may have about retiring to Mexico haven't gone unnoticed by developers and officials, who see an opportunity to fill a need and make a lot of money.
Developers of "independent living" facilities for seniors are also beginning to look to Mexico. A Spanish-U.S. venture is building Sensara Vallarta, a 250-unit condominium complex aimed at Americans 50 and older in the Pacific Coast resort of Puerto Vallarta. And in the northern city of Monterrey, El Legado is marketing itself as a "home resort" for seniors.Mexico could give American retirees a better quality of life at a better price than they could find in the United States? That's disturbing to even read those words. I think we should be taking care of one another here at home. If a person makes the choice to move to Mexico because they like the climate, culture or country, that's their choice. However, if a person moves to Mexico because they can't afford to maintain their same quality of life here, that's just wrong and we should be ashamed.
Academics and government officials are beginning to take notice. In March, the University of Texas at Austin held a forum for developers, hospital officials, insurance companies and policymakers to discuss health care for retirees in Mexico.
"With the right facilities in place, Mexico could give (American retirees) a better quality of life at a better price than they could find in the United States," says Flavio Olivieri, a member of Tijuana's Economic Development Council, which is seeking funding from Mexico's federal government to build more retirement homes. "We think this could be a very good business as these baby boomers reach retirement age," he says.
It's great to know Mexico is an option for retirees, and we all like to have options, but our golden years should not be at the whim of dollars and cents - or pesos.