Older Americans are looking beyond these borders to find cheaper and more age-friendly places to live. So we wondered, what do other countries offer their seniors? Which country has the best health care for older folks, the best pensions, the cheapest rent and so on?
Take a look at the list we’ve started, add your own suggestions at the end and ask yourself: What does the U.S. have that someone in another country might list as “best” for those past 60?
Health Care: FRANCE
France has the best health-care system in the world, at least according to a World Health Organization report. France uses a mix of public and private financing to ensure that all legal residents have access to basic health care.
The sicker you are, the more the system cares for you – unlike many American health plans that won’t take clients with pre-existing conditions or chronic health troubles (that’s slated to change in 2014 with the Affordable Care Act). For example, France’s system completely covers the needs of 30 longterm illnesses. If you have diabetes, you pay nothing for the items you need to manage it. And no one goes broke treating cancer.
French patients have as much doctor choice as Americans, and they don’t have deductibles, just modest co-pays that are dismissed for those with chronic illnesses. Considering the result – reduction in stress over medical coverage – it’s easy to understand why people live longer in France: The average life expectancy there is 81 years, compared to 70 in the US.
Pensions: THE NETHERLANDS
The aging “crisis” is global: The percentage of the world population 60 years and older will grow from 11 percent in 2006 to 22 percent by 2050. That’s a lot of pension pockets to fill. According to Australia’s Melbourne Mercer Global Pension Index, a comparison of 14 different retirement income systems, The Netherlands is best poised to keep the coffers full.
The Index is based on more than 40 indicators falling into three categories: current benefits, system sustainability and private sector integrity. In 2011 The Netherlands scored highest, followed by Switzerland, Sweden, Australia and Canada. The United States ranked tenth and China last.
Why are things so good for Dutch retirees? Not only do they receive a social security-like pension based on lifetime earnings, they also receive a flat rate public pension just for retiring. As a result, many retirees earn as much post- as pre-retirement.
Among the 33 countries surveyed by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, the average legal age for retirement is 64. Expect that number to rise as governments try to save their pension systems while the global population ages. That’s not bad news for everyone. Plenty of senior citizens prefer to continue working, even part-time. If that describes you, then Japan is the place to be.
Almost 69 percent of Japanese people age 55 to 64 participated in the 2010 labor force, compared to 65 percent of Americans in that age group. Also in Japan: Some 38 percent of seniors ages 65 to 69 worked in 2010, compared to 31 percent here. The kicker is for those aged 70 to 74: In Japan, 30 percent of that group continued to work in 2010, a higher number than in any other OECD country.
Japan has the largest percentage of people 65 and older in the world, which would naturally drive up that country’s stats. But it’s possible that seniors are more welcome in the workforce there, and more excited about working. Did you know, for example, that Japanese senior citizens volunteered to work at the radiation-damaged Fukushima power plant to save younger workers from getting sick during the cleanup?
Although some counties have cheaper housing than Nicaragua (Madagascar apparently has the world’s lowest rents, but then again that country also has one of the highest poverty rates), Nicaragua is one of the most affordable Central American counties and one that’s actively recruiting retirees. Two-bedroom houses can go for as little as $30,000, or $250 a month in rent ($150 for one-bedrooms), and it costs less than $200 to become a resident. Total expenses for a month there, including domestic help, can be as little as $500. Of course, for Nicaraguans, those prices are relative to local earnings.
Civil war and strife? Those days are long gone; this small, coastal country wants folks to see it as the new, more affordable Costa Rica.
Social Life: MEXICO
Many countries offer some kind of government-funded health insurance and have cheaper housing than the U.S. But what about affordable opportunities to stay active and engaged? ForeignPolicy.com declared Mexico one of the best places for seniors because of its “lively social scene.” Almost 7,000 government-run community centers and clubs around the country are attended by 200,000 people a day. Plus, senior citizens get to take advantage of considerable discounts (up to 100 percent!) at grocery stores, restaurants and pharmacies, and on public transportation.
Which countries would you add to our list – and what should seniors in other countries come to the U.S. for? Share your suggestions in the comments box below.