Elderly Scandinavians, British pensioners and sundry German and Dutch citizens of a certain age are well aware of the benefits of retiring abroad. Coming from countries with high basic living costs, and being used to cheap European travel, the delights of Southern Europe have not escaped them. Maybe the time is ripe for Americans to turn their advancing years into a sweet dream rather than the constant nightmare of struggling to make ends meet.
Whilst it is relatively easy to compare living costs it can be a little harder to evaluate the realities of actually making the move.
Africa? Obviously there are cheap places to live in this huge continent, but due to the continuing social and economic crises it might not really sound attractive. India? A definite possibility, but the choices seem limited to either living in teeming cities, with all their attendant miseries of poverty and disease, or becoming isolated in an agrarian hinterland with limited services. Then too, there are very real concerns about health and possible epidemics to consider.
So why not take a lead from the million or more Northern Europeans who have quite happily settled in Spain?
Living there on a budget is easy; living well on a limited budget is distinctly possible. Relocate to the Costas and the living is easy. Head a little further inland, to reduce costs still further, and discover a lifestyle ideally suited to the older person.
With apartments renting for about US$ 450 per month, the biggest budgetary problem is manageable. And this is not for some little shack in the mountains. That amount of rent will secure a three bedroom, two bathroom apartment with terrace.
Cheap enough to run, there are no heating costs for at least eight months of the year. A modern, or recently renovated, apartment comes equipped with washing machine and television as standard equipment; no need to ever replace them as they are the landlord’s responsibility.
Apartments invariably have marble tiled flooring throughout, making housework a breeze and air conditioning an unnecessary luxury; it has to be said each tenant in an apartment block is responsible for sharing the the cleaning in communal areas, the stairs and entrance lobby for example. Why not pay a cleaner for few hours a week? $12 per hour is more than generous.
Food is still remarkably cheap; $50 per week is more than enough for groceries, including cleaning materials, to keep a couple living high off the hog. But why bother? During the warmer months of the year a menu del dia (daily menu) can be eaten outside at countless bars and restaurants, ranging from just o.k. to excellent. With starter, entrée, and either dessert or coffee served with wine and bread for under $12 why do your own washing up? Good breakfasts with great coffee come in at just under $3. The sunshine is, of course free, an added extra.
A further point to bear in mind is that local shops and bars do exist in great numbers. the cost of a car is largely unnecessary.
Of course everyday living costs are not the only considerations. Health is always going to be a primary concern for older people. Rest assured, Spain has a worthy reputation as an excellent provider of health care. This does have to be paid for however by non E.U. citizens.
Make sure that insurance costs are factored in before making any commitments. It is always worth talking to current insurance providers to see if they will provide cover abroad. Keep in mind that any treatments will almost certainly be cheaper than in America; but don’t remind them that with your new Mediterranean lifestyle you expect to live a little longer.
Then there are those little extras that money just can’t buy. Small town, inland Spain has other, unexpected, charms. Los ancianos (literally the ancients) are valued residents and are welcome anywhere.
Retirement communities sound fine, but surely they are populated solely by old people. Spanish communities range right through the ages and the youngsters do keep an eye out for their older citizens. Have the occasional glass of wine too many (and why not?) and the young chaps at the bar will make sure you get home safely. It would be rude not to help out.
But this is Spain you might say. Surely they speak Spanish? Yes they do, but Spaniards are very forgiving when they see foreigners struggling with their language. And isn’t learning a language thought to be one of the best brain training exercises? What a wonderful way to keep a mind young and active.
Spain, affordable living, cheap food, caring neighbors and a vibrant lifestyle; or a costlier, but dull, retirement home in Florida. The choice is yours.