3 Countries Where Your Age Is an Asset

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Happy senior couple saving money and budgeting or doing math for retirement income
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Editor's Note: This story originally appeared on Live and Invest Overseas.

I often get questions from retirees (or soon-to-be retirees) wondering about how older folks are treated internationally, worried that they might not be as respected in their new home.

But that’s not at all the case.

Frankly, in my 35 years covering this retire overseas beat, I’ve come to discover that it’s just the opposite — the elderly are often held in higher esteem and given more deference in other countries than they are in the United States.

From laws that offer more benefits to those of retirement age to how the average person on the street regards their elders, many societies overseas revere seniors in a way that seems alien to Americans.

A Different Culture Overseas

Healthy retiree
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Youth-chasing is a global phenomenon — we all want to look as young as we can for as long as we can — but international living offers escape from a culture that generally prizes the younger and dismisses the older of us.

The family unit is still the center of society across many Latin American, Asian, and European cultures, and older people are the fulcrums of that dynamic.

Older women might find themselves on the receiving end of more acts of chivalry living overseas.

Holding open the door or giving up a seat on the train or bus is more common outside of the States, where it might be viewed as a form of sexism. In many other cultures, it’s a sincere form of courtesy and respect.

Nursing homes and senior communities are American inventions that don’t generally exist overseas, except where the concept has been imported, meaning that folks of all ages are living their lives on the streets, out and about, and socializing a lot more visibly than they are in the States.

A Better Life for Those Over 50

Happy retired couple
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From the way that those of a certain age are essentially removed from society and put into care homes to the infamous “senior scams” that prey on the elderly in the States … I can tell you from personal experience, as a woman of 60 who has lived and worked overseas from the age of about 23 to today, that life is better overseas for those over 50.

In Latin America, family is valued above all else, and the elders of the clan are always cared for in the home when illness strikes or they can no longer live alone.

Aside from cultural respect, there are some very tangible ways in which seniors legally benefit from their age in several countries, including the simple fact that many of these countries have gone out of their way to roll out the red carpet for foreign retirees in their specially designed retiree visa packages.

Here are my top choices.

1. Mexico

Mazatlan, Mexico
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Mexico, home to an estimated 60,000 American retirees and perhaps the easiest residency program in the world to apply for, gives great discounts to residents over 60.

To get a residency visa is an easy process that can be started online and completed within mere hours.

With an INAPAM (Instituto Nacional para las Personas Adultas Mayores) card, the senior discount card, you’ll get discounts of 10%-50% on health care, medications, transportation, groceries, restaurants, hotels, entertainment, property taxes, water bills, and many services and retail stores.

2. Panama

Playa Coronado Panamá, Panama Beach
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Panama, where I live for about half the year, offers a suite of benefits for those over a certain age (62 for men and 57 for women), including discounts on entertainment (50%), hotels (30%-50%) transportation (30%), flight tickets (25%), utility bills (25%), doctor (20%), technical and professional services (20%), restaurants (20%), hospital, dental, and eye exams (15%), loans (15%), medications (10%), and home mortgages (1%).

And there are special lines for seniors at banks, payment centers, and government offices, so we don’t have to stand around waiting as long as others.

Plus, the country’s retirement visa is one of the best in the world, with a low income requirement of just $1,000 per month and special tax exemptions.

3. Costa Rica

Playa Flamingo beach in Guanacaste, Costa Rica
Stefan Neumann / Shutterstock.com

Costa Rica was the first country to put in place a retiree visa program, and it was long held as the gold standard for retirees looking to move abroad. Like Panama, it also only requires a minimum monthly income of $1,000 and offers special tax exemptions.

Residents 65 and over here can apply for a Ciudadano de Oro card and take advantage of free bus transport and rides on the Puntarenas-Paquera Ferry, plus discounts of 2%-20% at pharmacies, opticians, hotels, clinical laboratories, and on shoes, furniture, appliances, and other retail items (agreements have been made with 1,659 commercial establishments).

And, like in Panama, the card will get you to the front of the line in banks and government offices, as well as hospitals.

As an added plus, Costa Rica was ranked as the 12th happiest country in the world for 2024.

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