The youngest Baby Boomer in the U.S. is now 55-years-old and many are making plans to retire in Mexico, as we discovered in our Expats In Mexico Survey 2019. Is the eldercare industry in Mexico ready for the Baby Boomer wave that will soon roll into the country?
There are about 76 million U.S. Baby Boomers, those born between 1946 and 1964. Less than half have reached retirement age, but the U.S. Census Bureau says 10,000 become eligible for retirement each day.
But the cost of eldercare in America, and the reality that many Baby Boomers are not financially prepared for their golden years, is making Mexico and other lower cost-of-living countries attractive to retirees.
Eldercare is a term that covers assisted living, nursing care, adult day care, home care and hospice care. With better and more healthcare options, many seniors will live healthy, independent lives in retirement, but a large proportion of retirees will need assistance.
Mexico, however, has had a long-standing cultural tradition of families taking care of their own, according to our Expats In Mexico healthcare expert and blogger, Monica Rix Paxson. She is the author of “The English Speaker’s Guide to Medical Care in Mexico.”
“Historically in Mexico, grandparents lived with and were taken care of by their family,” Rix Paxson said. “There was little expense, they were in familiar surroundings and their children took care of them. That is changing, though, as Mexico’s economy offers more work opportunities for members of the family and much less time to look after their elderly family members.”
As a result of these winds of change for eldercare in Mexico and the acceleration of the number of expat retirees moving to the country, the eldercare services industry is beginning to grow more rapidly to accommodate new demand.
A Dallas Morning News article highlighted the development of this new industry in Mexico: “There are already an estimated 1.2 million retired Americans and Canadians in Mexico who – like their millions of compatriots back home – will need a greater level of care at an affordable price. Some developers are shifting their traditional condo and townhouse developments in midstream to include assisted-living wings, in part, for Americans who want modern facilities with quality services, rather than the informal operations or go-it-alone approaches that now exist.”
To help developers jump into the new industry, the Mexican Retirement Assistance Association (AMAR) was formed to assist companies focused on developing senior housing and eldercare facilities in Mexico.
Rix Paxson told us there are many eldercare options in Mexico.
“There are various levels of assisted living, beginning with nursing homes for people with memory issues. Then there is standard assisted living for those who are well enough to take care of most of their daily needs on their own. As we decline, we tend to need more services. Independent living is different than assisted living. You are in a community where you can move into assisted living as you need it. You can also be completely on your own but perhaps take a few meals a day with the community.”
For those who live independently, but need personal care help, Rix Paxson suggested Visiting Angels, a national network of home care agencies. They provide non-medical senior home care services for those who want to live independently in their own homes.
“It’s an affordable personal care service,” she said. “If you only need certain services or certain days, they will quote you a price and come to your house to help you.”
Assisted living facilities in Mexico typically offer:
- Three meals a day in a common dining room
- Help with eating meals, bathing, dressing, going to the bathroom and walking
- Housekeeping activities
- Access to healthcare
- 24-hour security
- Call systems for emergencies
- Wellness programs, including regular exercise
- Management of medication
- Washing and ironing clothes
- Activities for recreation and socialization
- Help with both scheduled and unscheduled activities
It is also common in Mexico for assisted care facilities to offer Internet service, libraries, television and other amenities. More upscale facilities offer swimming pools, patios, exercise facilities and other features. Larger facilities often have 24-hour medical staff.
Eldercare facilities for expats are located in some of the Mexican states that border the U.S. and major expat communities throughout Mexico, including our top 11 cities for expats in Mexico. Most of these eldercare facilities feature English-speaking staff and have fewer than 20 full-time residents. In the U.S., the average assisted living facility has about 45 residents.
The Lake Chapala-area is well known as a major expat retirement center in Mexico and is home to nearly a dozen assisted living facilities. We looked at two of them to see what they offer.
Casa Anastasia Care Home in Riberas del Pilar has been in business for three years, but the manager has over 30 years of experience. This 16-room facility has all of the services and amenities of the typical assisted living facility, including extras like haircuts and access to a physician next door. The new Hospital San Antonio is just two blocks away. Prices start at US$1,200 monthly and go up, depending on care needs.
Also in Riberas del Pilar, Casa Nostra Nursing Home is a 24-room facility that has operated in several different locations for the past 28 years and is now located just five minutes from Hospital San Antonio. It has an exercise room, 24-hour nursing and additional activities for residents, such as painting, yoga and lunches out each Friday. Its basic price is US$1,800 per month, or US$2,000 monthly for residents who have dementia or Alzheimer’s.
Americans cannot count on using Medicare to help pay for eldercare in the U.S., or Mexico since coverage does not extend to those living abroad, but the cost difference between the two countries offsets that disadvantage. The average monthly cost of an assisted living facility in America today is US$3,700 a month, more than twice the amount of assisted living in Mexico. But the difference, Rix Paxson said, is not just in the cost.
“In Mexico, you will receive TLC provided by healthcare professionals that live in a society that cares for and respects its elderly,” she said. “Elders in this country are respected. It’s also a culture in which people who work in the service industry, people who are doing housekeeping, gardening and nursing care are respected. These are honored professions. You have an environment where elderly people are valued in the Mexican culture.”
One problem the new eldercare industry faces is a lack of regulation. Current laws do not regulate long-term care. Most laws cover medical ambulatory or hospital care for the ill and disabled. Only one is aimed at the provision of social services to children and the elderly, according to “The State of Elder Care in Mexico” Geriatric Report. The Mexican Association of Retirement Communities is lobbying for legislation similar to the U.S., the Dallas Morning News reported.
Our expert Rix Paxson confirmed the lack of accreditation.
“Medical specialists are now certified, but not eldercare facilities. You have to do your own verification. One place to start is getting recommendations from local expats. Many expat cities have either local online communities or Facebook and other social media groups,” she said. “They are aware of what eldercare services and facilities are located within their community.”