Work & Money

5 Best Countries to Grow Old In

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.




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.


Employment: JAPAN


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? 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.


21 responses to “5 Best Countries to Grow Old In

  1. I have never seen such dumb comments in my life. Is this Dummy Central? One comment contradicted itself as if written by a dumb or demented older woman. Sad if true. However, let’s get real and out of “rosied up” FakeBook culture. No wonder women are sometimes dismissed as Blanche Dubois types living in a fantasy world. Older people need to hear the truth about old age and learn how to best deal with the difficulties of old age and the inevitable.

  2. I think islamabad Pakistan is a great place for retirement.its very safe,great weather,great and affordable private health care, English speaking doctors nurses and most of the city.very affordable rents,and very cosmopolitan.downside is too much negative media coverage about pakistan.but it’s capital islamabad is totally safe and fun.for 1200 dollars a couple can retire in 2 bed apt with a full time maid and decent healthcare coverage.100 embassies and international staff add to the cosmopolitan atmosphere

  3. @Carrie. I just want to add to your comment about NYC. There are surprisingly affordable places to live there. I was considering a job there a few months ago and began looking at condos in the Bronx. Was shocked at how affordable the newly remodeled, very up-to-date the properties were. And the neighborhoods appeared to be very nice, family oriented environments. I encourage anyone looking to relocate to consider that as an option. Beautiful views of the Hudson, relatively easy access to Manhattan – theater, museums, etc., and I’m positive there are seniors groups that are more local. Also, have several friends who live a little further up the Hudson in smaller communities. Their photos are stunning – postcards. The only “complaint” I hear from them is food can be pricey.

      1. I don’t see the Philippines. You’re a senior at 60 and can apply for the seniors discount card. By law all seniors get a 20% discounts and medical insurance is free for seniors. After one year you are eligible for permanent residency

  4. I have heard so much about. United states health system and the horror stories the unaffordable healtn insurance caused. I see so many older people working just to receive health benifets. If you can afford a great health plan in retirement America is a great place to grow old only if you have a great plan. The affordable health care is a step in the right direction and contrary to what some people believe it is not a socialist program. I live in Canada and I love the comfort I get of not having the worry of not having a health plan

    1. Of course you might have to wait 2 Years for a hip replacement in Canada. That would mean 2 Years of pain.
      My husband is Canadian and we realized that he would not be alive today under the Canadian medical system. Because of our yearly check ups, he has caught two major diseases early enough to survive them. He also got to choose the best specialist in the country.

      1. Carol
        First of all I have never heard of anyone who has waited 2 years for any surgery. Second of all read all these replies and tell me USA medical system is better than Canada’s.

  5. I am definitely loosing my battle to continue to
    afford living in my home.

    I don’t have any savings left and my social
    security payments are very inadequate.

    My health causes me the most problems and
    I cannot take on a full time or part time job.
    All of this makes “retirement” a very stressful
    unhappy time for me.

    I have thought about moving to another country in hopes of finding a kinder reality.

    I have never lived outside of the US. Can
    someone give me some information and
    advice regarding the process and the
    feasibility of doing this.

    1. I don’t know where you live or what your options are but I’m thinking of getting certified to teach English, moving out of the country and teaching in another country. It’s virtually impossible to live here anymore unless you’re wealthy.

      1. Grace, not all countries require you to have a TEFL. In Egypt it is as simple as having a college degree. Thailand is requiring a Tefl… so check first. Also in any country, don’t take the job unless that countries immigration approves it first. The company if legitimate will gladly write you a letter of sponsorship and even send someone with you to help with your immigration status.

        Your salary should help with most of your expenses, but not eliminate them.

    2. Greeting

      it is important to realize that moving to a new country can be an isolating experience. That said a couple would be an advantage in relocating to a new country. Your English language skills however really don’t help much, so you must learn the local dialects and or simply rent a translator to set things up for you.

      Once you have legal status in a country, be prepared for biases against you. I have pensinado status in Panama and I had to call in the tourist police once or twice to convince the person wanting my money, that I was allowed a discount….

      You will find food and entertainment and public transportation to be very affordable, but it is of a different standard than you might like. You have to give up the ideal that it will be easy, it can be very difficult and frustrating at times. You have to learn not to get upset and roll with the punches.

      There are many more con men out foraging for your money and often very little to nothing the local police can do to help you when your taken advantage of. I was rented a house in a small village in Panama for 50 dollars US,but was rudely woke up one morning by the irate real owner…. He continued to rent me the house, but we went to the local housing office to first prove his ownership. I got taken advantage of, but keeping my temper in check it worked out well for me in the end.

  6. This idea, this thought, this historic consciousness about growing old, I believe is a conversation we have been maintaining and as a result we grow old. I got a contrary thought; we grow, we expand and we become that which we desire and want all the time without fail. That’s it period.

    And the best place to do that is to live within and to do so with full transparency.

    1. Nice, positive, enthusiastic bull! I don’t know if you’ve ever noticed the maturing process of your personal physical plant, but even you will grow old and rot regardless of what ‘pollyanna’ conversations you entertain in your own interior delirium. Remember your own writing the next time you’re hurriedly being taken to the doctor or the emergency room. You will have a little difficulty recalling your “everythings coming up roses” lyrics. In spite of your rosy attitude, you’re inevitably headed down the slippery slope of demise. In case you haven’t noticed, its an inescapable part of the process. Maybe you should work for Hallmark.

  7. New York City is a great place to be after retirement…..transportation is easy and affordable and inclusive; cultural institutions are first-rate; senior programs abound; healthcare and hospitals are some of the best in the country…….all you have to do is be able to afford the rent or buy a co-op……THAT isn’t so easy.

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