Relocating to Another Country in the Senior Years
June 28, 2012 Lifestyle

Retirement brings about the prospect of many exciting adventures for some seniors. Less responsibility as children leave the homestead, mortgages finally paid off and no work commitments to restrict travel and personal time allows seniors to explore new avenues in life. The more adventurous senior may even look at moving abroad and spending their retirement years in a foreign country. To some it may seem like a dream come true choosing to live in a more temperate environment where the cost of living is cheaper and the nest egg can go further. However, there are a number of different implications of emigrating, particularly at such a late stage in life.

Health Care in a New Country

First and foremost seniors have to consider why they are leaving their home country and what more a foreign country could offer them. There may be distinct advantages on the surface but there has to be a careful assessment to the viability of moving abroad. One of the main consideration should be the health of senior – their current health status and pre-existing ailments and possible future conditions they may face. The input of one’s family doctor is indispensable in this regard and seniors should not overlook sound medical advice when making the decision to emigrate.

The senior years can be fraught with health obstacles that may not be a concern for younger individuals. Chronic diseases and chronic medication, the need for surgery, conditions which a senior is at risk of developing and the implications of medical insurance when abroad are just some of these health related considerations. Will the benefits of moving abroad outweigh the familiarity of their family doctor, present health care facilities and access to their family and friends especially when ill? Is the health care system in the other country suitable for one’s health needs especially in terms of geriatric medicine (elderly health care)?

Affording to Live Abroad

The other major consideration is affordability. Moving to countries where the cost of living is lower and the foreign exchange rate works in one’s favor does not necessarily mean that living abroad is going to be sustainable indefinitely. There may be many unforeseen costs that were not a consideration in one’s country. There are many expenses in life beyond just food, shelter, clothing and entertainment. Government provisions play an integral role in making certain services and benefits available to its citizens thereby cutting the cost of living.

State benefits for residents may not be as forthcoming as in one’s home country. There is also the issue that a senior may never become a citizen of the country and will never benefit from any state benefits. Ultimately this means that the senior resident will have to pay for various services out of their own pocket that they would otherwise not have to bear in their home country or if they were a citizen. There is also the issue of the level of service or quality of product versus the price. It may seem cheaper in a foreign country but is it the same service and product that one is accustomed to?

Life in a Foreign Country

As much as there may be issues of language and cultural differences, loneliness without one’s family and friends and the possible issues with personal finance and health, relocating to another country can be exciting even when one is older. It is not just about a new adventure but it can also offer seniors comforts and experiences that may not be affordable or accessible in their home country. However, one should always be realistic about the move abroad and not let nostalgia about some past vacation in the country cloud their judgement.

Some of the other points that seniors need to bear in mind beyond the health and finance issues include :

  • Right to live in another country, residency and visa status as well as opportunities to buy and own a home abroad.
  • Life insurance and other personal insurance considerations when older and living abroad.
  • Ease of accessibility to facilities and institutions including banking, shopping, health care and government offices, which are often necessary for an older foreigner.
  • Implications of one’s pension payouts from their home country when living abroad. This may also include tax implications.
  • Ability to travel to one’s home country occasionally and the ease for family and friends to travel to visit a senior in their new country of residency.
  • Consequences when one passes away in a foreign country and the implications for family and friends with regards to a funeral.

Other major issues such as political stability and the crime situation in the country of choice should also be discussed with a reputable immigration agent. Personal research and communicating with expatriates in that country may also help to give a better idea of the reality of life there. The decision should also be made with the input of several other parties, including friends, family, doctors and financial consultants. Only then can one make a relatively unbiased decision about moving and living in a foreign country in the senior years.

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