Send the elderly abroad?


Walter Russell Mead of the Council on Foreign Relations, a genuine establishment thinker, writes in the Los Angeles Times of the virtues (for America) of "sending" our elderly to retirement in low wage countries like Mexico and Costa Rica, where over a million Americans have already retired. He notes the since Medicare doesn't cover expenses aborad, this would reduce the financial burden on the rest of us. It might also help stem the tide of illegal immigration. But of course nobody will be doing any sending. People must make these decisions ont heir own. More than a million Americans have already retired south of the border.

Mead is a couple of steps behind the times. Costa Rican retirement real estate is already getting expensive, so people are searching for alternatives like Belize, where nice condos and villas are still cheap. (Better pray for no hurricanes, though). And he fails to note that Japan has for well over a decade been encouraging "silver villages" of retirement communities for its elderly in low wage places like the Philippines and (yes) Mexico. Japan faces a much larger retirement demographic bulge than we do, and its population has already begun a long term decline, increasing the weight of the eldery on the budget.

The quality of local medical care is an issue abroad, and so is the lack of legal protections and physcial security problems. One retirement community in Belize is on an island, providing some insulation from marauders. Mead's suggestion that the United States begin negotiating agreements with foreign countries to protect American retirees in return for the economic benefits of increased retirement immigration may well have some merit, though.

Hat tip: Ed Lasky   9 18 05