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Sun-starved vacationers have made Mexico the most popular international destination for Americans. As you’re reading this (hopefully with a cold Modelo Especial nearby), it’s easy to see why. Mexico’s superb assortment of world-class lodging, proximity, foreign-yet-familiar conveniences, friendly hosts, and affordability are perennial magnets that put Mexico atop the holiday getaway list.

What about Mexico for longer stays? Or even permanent residency? Mexico has had snowbird residents for decades. This seasonal ebb and flow will no doubt continue. However, it’s the permanent, long-stay opportunity that’s changing the retirement game for millions of estadounidenses.

The U.S. population is retiring in record numbers. Some 10,000 baby boomers hit 65 every day. When the last of the baby boomers reach age 65 in 2029, they will be more than 20% of the total US population (some 78 million seniors).

As Americans age and retire, ‘lifestyle migration’ to Mexico has become a practical opportunity. Technology, mobile lifestyles, longer lifespans, and connectivity have opened senior living options in places scarcely considered just a generation ago.

Mexico for living conditions

Millions more are confronting a “perfect storm” of conditions that will inhibit their senior living futures up north. Forecasters paint a dark future for longer-living Americans. AARP and others document how a lack of retirement/health care savings, Medicare coverage gaps, and Social Security uncertainty are weighing on American seniors’ retirement plans. The numbers are staggering. 28% of Americans over age 55 have no savings. Moving a parent into memory care can be staggering on so many levels, not the least of which is the soaring cost.

Since about 70% of the 65-plus population—including many people with cognitive impairment—requires some form of long-term care, the aging US population will create unprecedented demand for the services in a U.S. health care system that is already strained to deliver senior services.

Compounding these concerns, millions of Americans are reaching retirement age while still caring for a parent. Like never before in America’s history, parents are living longer, staying active, and facing (with their grown-up children) an uncertain future. The reality of caring for aged parents is now squarely part of the ‘what next?’ lifestyle decision.

The beach will always be a popular first choice for retirement consideration. But if living where others party is not your paradise, take out a map and find Mexico’s central plateau, an area of mountains, volcanoes, high desert, big cities, and colonial towns. Make a big circle around the highlands between Guadalajara and Mexico City. This is a good place to start seeking your village in the sun.

This altiplano offers an enticing mix of pull factors important to long-term, senior-living viability. The three contiguous states (from west to east) of Jalisco, Guanajuato, and Querétaro have an array of assets and strategic advantages for sustainable year-round living.

These can be summarized as:

  1. Climate:

    Coastal living (while attractive) faces extreme temperature/humidity conditions from May to October. Highland areas offer more stable year-round conditions and much lower humidity. Outdoor living (hiking, dining, gardening, socializing) is a year-round benefit

  2. Connectivity:

    How easy or difficult will it be to get back home, or travel around Mexico? What’s air/bus connectivity with the places you care about?

  3. Culture:

    Mexico’s interior is home to festivals, color, rural/urban settings, UNESCO World Heritage sites, Pueblos Mágicos, and grand urban areas with full cultural agendas and conveniences, with expat community connections that are sometimes limited in beach resort settings

  4. Connectivity:

    The best international air service to Mexico is across a network of Central Mexican cities, led by Guadalajara and supported by US non-stops to cities like Morelia, León/El Bajio, Querétaro. Mexico’s leading health care ‘hub’ is Guadalajara, a city renowned for its medical universities that train doctors who come here from around the world.

  5. Care:

    Guadalajara is Latin America’s hospital hub and a renowned physician training center. Doctors still make house calls, give out their Cel number and spend time understanding their patients.

  6. Costco:

    A metaphor for the convenient availability of common consumer products and services, something many American retirees won’t find beyond Mexico.

By some estimates, nearly 2 million expats call Mexico their year-round home. Many (me included) believe a migratory tsunami is beginning to crest. It’s not Mexicans moving north (these numbers continue to fall), but rather boomers, their parents, and young entrepreneurs who are exploring Mexico for long-term stays.

Clearly, Mexico is not the right choice for every retiree. Barriers exist, both real and perceived. If you talk with expats living in Mexico, you’ll hear heartwarming (and hilarious) encounters with Mexico’s vida cotidiana, cultural peculiarities (dogs on the roof?), and making friends under a new sun.

The days when Mexico living meant ‘sacrifice’ or tradeoffs in the standard of living are essentially gone.  So too are restrictions about residency (a simple process costing under $500), finding quality adult medical care, or bringing your belongings south. It’s a new mamani in a neighboring nation that is welcoming more expat residents every year.

So, the next time you fly down to Mexico, the guy sitting across from you in 23D just might be coming home — to Mexico. For more information about Mexico visit the destination showcase