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"WELCOME HOME, YANKEES!" MEXICAN DEVELOPERS TARGET AGING AMERICANS WITH INEXPENSIVE SENIOR HOUSING

Posted by: Laurence Harmon on 1/30/2009

With the average monthly rent for an American assisted living unit approaching $6,000, and nursing home rents topping $8,000, senior communities in some quaint Mexican cities are choosing to offer these facilities for as little as $1,100 a month. 

There are more than a million aging Americans and Canadians who have already retired in Mexico, and many of them, like the estimated 76 million of their Baby Boomer peers in the States, will increasingly require greater levels of care. Inevitably, as rents for U. S. senior facilities continue to skyrocket, many will discover that their depleted retirement funds won't cover the costs. And some far-sighted Mexican developers are already taking notice.
 
As Eduardo Alvarado, chief executive officer of La Moreleja, a residential development in San Luis Potosi, a bustling northern Mexican city with a population of nearly 700,000, observes, "(Senior housing) is not going to be a niche market. It's going to be an entire industry. We already have the pioneers here, but what we are seeing is that many people will come, perhaps not because they want to, but out of necessity." Mexico, he claims, is far more modern and much safer than Americans imagine. "It's as safe as or safer than the U. S."
 
San Miguel de Allende, a city of about 150,000 founded in the early sixteenth century, famous for its mild climate and colonial-era architecture, is the home of Cielito Lindo, Mexico's first assisted living community, pictured at right. Featuring villa-type living in a master-planned community, two-bedroom, 1,400-square foot units with covered and uncovered terraces, fully-equipped kitchens, two bathrooms, laundry facilities and pantries, are offered at monthly rents of $1,400. Rent covers all utilities, as well as cable TV, maintenance, and high-speed Internet. Additional services, including exercise facilities, tennis, swimming and lap pools, and the like are available for $80/month, with daily transportation to the city of San Miguel at $100/month.  
 
A word of caution is advised, however. So far, assisted living facilities are unregulated in Mexico. They're so new--only about a half-dozen in the country--that laws are yet to be adopted to cover them. The Mexican Association of Retirement communities is seeking regulations similar to those governing U. S. senior housing properties.
 
Marisol Ancona Velten, who is director of planning for an assisted living development in Mexico City, notes that some informal senior housing projects, often converted private homes, offer substandard care. Moreover, many Mexican resort cities, such as San Miguel and Puerto Vallarta, lack world-class hospital facilities that are found in the States and in Mexico City.
 
Despite these concerns, as one satisfied Cielito Lindo resident sums up his retirement experience, "If you get into your 80s and need assisted living, what could be better than this? The people are so friendly and the scenery is so beautiful."
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