I spent some time in Central Mexico in San Miguel de Allende, a long time haven for Americans.
The colonial city that's rich in history and culture is an old favorite for many expats. Now it's part of a new trend. Several assisted living centers are opening. We visited one just outside the city. It's located in the Rancho Los Labradores development.
That's where I met Christine Pope, a cheerful native Texan with a quick smile who does not look 91 years old. She and her little dog, Mitchie, now call the "Cielito Lindo" assisted living center home. Mrs. Pope moved here a few months ago. (I'll post some pictures later.) "I was amazed it offered so much and where in the world was I going to go?" Pope asked me with a chuckle. It's a serious question for many Americans who want quality care at an affordable cost.
"Cielito Lindo" is the brainchild of developer Sergio Chazaro who says residents pay half the price they would for the same quality in the U.S. A suite costs $2,250.00 a month. A shared unit runs $1,750.00 a month. There's a doctor on staff and on call to help residents with everything from minor aches and pains to chronic conditions. He told me both physical and mental rehabilitation is available as as needed. A nutritionist designs individual meal plans for the residents.The center opened last year offering a dozen villas. It's now full but there are plans to build more.
The assisted living area is part of a larger development that makes it easier to make the transition from independence to full care as needed. There's a menu of options available for people who are in the "independent" living area. Chazaro explained "They get nurses if they want, doctor visits if they want, meals if they want, laundry service, someone to walk the dogs around."
And I saw several pets on the premises. Studies have shown people of all ages benefit from companion animals. And it seems plenty of residents are taking advantage of that option. It's rare in the U.S., where many aging residents have to give up their beloved pets because animals are not allowed.
Mexico has an opportunity to learn from the U.S. experience, both what works and what does not. That's what I heard from Javier Godinez Villegas, president of Mexico's Association of Retirement Communities "AMAR." He heads the non-profit organization which is lobbying the Mexican government to set some standards for the fledgling industry. The growth is happening so quickly and so many developers want to take advantage of the trend, there's a concern about the lack of regulation. AMAR wants some sort of accreditation process for facilities that cater to aging residents. Godinez and others want to ensure Mexico's retirement communities and assisted living centers offer the quality care. He's a true believer in the benefits of retiring in Mexico and touts it as "The most affordable destination abroad that is close to home."
It's so close Sandra and Gordon Thorpe drive back to Texas four times a year. "It's a beautiful drive down here. Most people don't know that. The roads are beautiful," Gordon Thorpe told me when I visited. The couple moved from San Antonio to San Miguel 6 years ago. They've never looked back. Instead they're planning for a future in Mexico."We've invested in some of the villas because it's a better investment than anything you can get in the states right now in terms of real estate," he explained.
Retired from the Navy, 75-year-old Gordon and his wife Sandra, 72, embody an active, independent lifestyle. The have a beautiful home in Racho Los Labradores.
" I like it very much. We have lots of friends here. We play golf a couple of times a week," said Sandra Thorpe.
But when they do need more care, the Thorpes will simply ease into the assisted living option. As Gordon explained, "Older people are treated better in Mexico than they are in the states. And they’re more respected. So you know you’re going to get that kind of care."