With the world in such a turmoil because of war, terrorism, political upheavals, tribal killings and natural disasters, why would any senior want to look for new places to retire? It is possible to seek some remote island in the Pacific as Robinson Crusoe or a hero of a Conrad book may have found, but today’s seniors are much more practical than just letting themselves get washed ashore somewhere.
Anyhow, who needs to start their sunset years in rags and talk only to a coconut, as Tom Hanks did in “Castaway”? Savvy seniors want to be sure their new retirement hometown has modern facilities, safety, reasonable prices, restaurants, good medical facilities and access to quality recreation and entertainment.
As a senior who took the plunge into retirement 2,500 miles away from my old home more than 15 years ago, and after much research then and since, these are my choices, in some new areas and some not so new.
1. To retire to glitzy Las Vegas, Nevada, may be a new idea, but it has been beckoning seniors for 60 years. Since it burst out from a little gambling town of 20,000 cowboys and Boulder Dam workers after World War II to the city of more than a million today, Las Vegas has a lot to offer seniors. It can be the place for people who want their final years to be active, maybe a bit noisy and naughty, and lots of fun. If you’re that kind of retiree, poet Dylan Thomas may have been thinking of you when he wrote, “Do not go gentle into that good night.”
There are many golf courses and other recreational facilities in and around Las Vegas, and except for the summer days that may hit 100 degrees, outdoor activities are possible year around. Compared to Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York City, housing is reasonable in Las Vegas, and many apartment developments, including those restricted to seniors, have swimming pools and tennis courts. Medical facilities are excellent throughout the area, and the famed Las Vegas strip offers Broadway quality entertainment, great dining, including the famed Vegas buffets, and lots of low-cost and free fun activities.
Sin City’s casinos also provide ample opportunity to get rid of all your savings so that you don’t have to leave them to those ungrateful kids and grandkids of yours. Seriously, that only has to happen if you’re an addicted gambler. We visit Las Vegas three or four times a year, confine our gambling to nickels and quarters, and enjoy everthing the city offers.
2. I guess I like Long Beach because many of my Navy shipmates, especially those who survived 20- or 30-year careers and are now permanently ashore, chose that very pleasant city on the sandy Pacific shore for retirement. Its current population is half a million, so there’s no crowded feeling of megatropolis Los Angeles, just 20 miles to the north. However, Long Beach is growing and evolving, and is one of the nation’s largest shipping ports. It also has lots of industry and oil wells, so for those retirees who want really small town living, Long Beach may not be the choice. If they want second or part-time jobs, the employment market is great. The city has good medical facilities, including one of the best VA hospitals in the US, fine restaurants, good shoreline housing, including excellent senior apartment and retirement communities and, because of its year-round warm weather, many recreation facilities.
3. I’ve always been impressed when visiting Montreal. There’s a sophistication about the Canadian city that is very French, but at the same time, very modern in a New World updated style. Some parks, avenues and neighborhoods remind visitors of Paris, while others are as contemporary as the newest in New York or San Francisco.
Montreal is the second largest city in Canada, after Toronto, and has a population of about three million. The city never seems crowded, and there’s an unspoken stylish dress code here that reminds visitors of New York’s Fifth Avenue of two generations ago. I know retirees like to sit back and relax in old clothes here as they do anywhere else, but when they go to a restauant or theater in Montreal, they enjoy the opportunity of reliving early days when we all spiffed up for a date with that special person.
Montreal is also beautiful in the winter, and surrounding the city are a great variety of winter activities, including some of the best ski resorts in America or anywhere else. In the summertime, you can stroll and bike through the lovely parks or take a ride around the city in horse-drawn buggies. If you decide to retire in this lovely Paris of America, sharpen up your high school French. About half of the inhabitants hail from that ethnicity, and many signs, publications, TV programs and other aspects of city life are in French only, or in both French and English.
4. Tuscany, Italy: If your parents or grandparents were part of the great Italian migration to America of the late 1800s and early 1900s, and you yearn to return to your ethnic roots for your sunset years, Tuscany may be the place for you. On second thought, even if your family, then and now, never set foot in Italy, this beautiful region could be for you. It is one of the most beautiful in the world.
Tuscany iswhere my favorite Italian city, Florence, is located. While still retaining the charm of its Da Vinci and Michelangelo 15th Century greatness, it has upscale neighborhoods of very contemporary villas, houses and condos that cost less than half of what the same places go for in Los Angeles, and one-fourth of the inflated New York City prices. The Italian charm can’t be bought, because it is priceless. If you’re an amateur photog or painter, where else in the world can you find the most historic and most beautiful settings in city and country.
Nearby is the wonderful city of Pisa and its neighboring town of Chianti. There’s a saying that if you spend enough time in Chianti, the Pisa tower won’t lean as much as you do after sampling all the wines. Cooking is another fine art in Tuscany, and a recent trip by a family member has given us an up-to-date report of all the hip, new cousine vacations offered by inns and small hotels in the region. In addition to the enjoyable classes, our American visitor took wonderful side trips to the Blue Grottos of the Isle of Capri and green hills of Sorrento.
6. San Diego is another traditional place for ex-Navy guys to come ashore for permanent retirement duty. I prefer it to Long Beach, which is 150 miles north on the California coastline, because San Diego is somewhat more culturally advanced, more contemporary in style and attitude. The air and sky are clearer, the weather is milder and the beaches are great. However, the city and its surrounding seashore towns have become favorite retirement destinations for people who have considerably more money than retired CPOs or MSGTs. Therefore, unless you’re prepared to pay top prices for apartments, condos and houses, you may not be able to make San Diego your retirement home.
Good or bad, considering the political and social climate, San Diego is just 30 miles north of the Mexican border town of Tijuana. While real estate is sky high on the US side, there are strings of very attractive, and considerably cheaper, beachfront retirement communities along the nearby Mexican coast where many US citizens, including military retirees, have settled. For instance, a two-bedroom condo (not beach or ocean view) in San Diego now costs $600,000 and up, but one of equal and possibly better quality just 40 or 50 miles down the coast on the beachfront sells for $85,000. Ten years ago, when we investigated the area for retirement potential (my spouse speaks fluent Spanish), the same Mexican condos were offered at $25,000.
7. Tucson is a big city that still thinks its a small cowtown in Southern Arizona, some 45 miles north of Nogales, Mexico. It is surrounded by some of the most beautiful saguaro cacti … those big ones with the uplifted arms you saw in all the John Wayne movies … and nestled between the Catalina and Tucson mountains. The city is the home of Arizona University, so there are plenty of cultural, theater and sports events for every senior’s taste. Real estate is not cheap, but it is nowhere as overpriced as in Phoenix, some 90 miles north, where the big, sprawling city gets 20 degrees hotter every summer. There are many new single home developments, condos and apartments in and around Tucson, many exclusively for seniors. Homes, which had been rising in price for the past ten years, have leveled off and dropped about ten percent or so since early 2007. For example, a single newish home with three bedrooms, which would cost you $500,000 in Phoenix and $750,000 in Los Angeles, can be bought in Tucson for $250,000.
8. Acapulco, Mexico, is a combination of the old and modern. A favorite stop for cruise ships, its charming shops and street stalls of fresh fruit and vegetables offer all kinds of goods and edibles at reasonable prices. Acapulco beaches rival California’s and the Riviera’s in quality and enjoyment. The deep sea sports fishing facilities are among the best in the world. The city is very modern, and apartments and houses are as well built and have all the latest conveniences you’d find north of the border for more than three times the cost. US retirees with moderate incomes live in an upper class style, including domestic and garden help, that can only be found in the finest homes in the US.
If its medical services you’re concerned about, Acapulco has modern medical facilities, including several internationally-renowned teaching hospitals. There are excellent medical professionals throughout the city, many educated in US med schools. If you’re paying through-the-nose prices for your drugs in the US, costs in Acapulco can be as little as one-third the cost.
Of course, there are many other places throughout the world where seniors can choose to retire. Some are not as well known as those I’ve recommended, but because I’ve visited all I’ve listed above, I can say those I’ve listed are attractive, reasonably safe for seniors, have low taxes and provide adequate medical and other support facilities for retirees. However, if you’re interested in expanding your search and want to consider some new countries, try looking at Ecuador, Israel, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, Chile, Argentina, Greece, England and the newly-emerging, oil-rich, modern Middle East kingdom of Dubai. Hey, if Michael Jackson is building his retirement home there, it must have something good to offer.