Marvin Gaye’s classic “Wherever I Lay My Hat (That’s My Home)” is well suited to Colombia, a nation of many sombreros. Increasingly, as retirees discover this country, hats of all kinds are being laid down by 60-somethings in search of sun, surf, and air-conditioned malls.
Barranquilla and Santa Marta have become important reference points for retirement-age real estate investments. Both Caribbean cities offer health-conscious gastronomy, ocean-view properties and an outdoor lifestyle at a fraction of the cost of a Miami Beach walk-up.
One is never ready to retire, but many are coming around to the idea of settling in a place that offers an agreeable climate and access to good healthcare close enough to a large city in case you want to shutter-up and travel overseas to visit loved ones.
For the senior technology executive, Tim Robertson, the idea of retiring in Colombia cemented itself after attending a conference in Cartagena.
“I found I could make friends easily, play golf at the many clubs along the coast, and have a social life that somehow was missing back home,” he said. “And the greatest advantage is that if I need to jump on a plane anywhere, I can do it as easily from Barranquilla as my hometown Chicago.”
Like Robertson, Colombia is welcoming retirees from the four corners of the world, and while living near the coast offers plenty of benefits, some prefer the option of living in this country’s smaller cities, such as Bucaramanga, Ibagué, Popayan, or Tunja.
As the official “retirement age” becomes more elusive for many who face career change later in life, one option is to purchase a small pied a terre in Bogotá and enjoy most of the week by a pool in a gated community a few hours from the capital, such Anapoima.
For the Bogotá architect Manuel Estrada, a housing project called Vivenza that was developed by his company offers seniors the ease of residing most of the week in a temperate climate, while if having to connect with the capital, can be done in two hours with frequent bus service.
“As life expectancy rises sharply, the elderly population is growing and living longer with a better quality of life,” said Estrada of the reasons why gated communities are becoming increasingly attractive.
“Living in community and with plenty of services, residents can maintain them- selves active, which is important as one grows older.”
Vivenza combines club services within a residential complex, so property owners benefit with reduced public services, 24-hour security, a top-of-the-line gym and pool, game room, chapel, and on-demand nurse triage.
Wandering through the Vivenza property in Anapoima, with views of the Sumapaz mountain range and surrounded by flowering Acacia trees, this gated community is expanding to include a similar complex in Chía, a satellite town to Bogotá.
According to the architect, the aging population in the developed world remains healthy due to changes in diet and regular exercise. In the United States men have an average life expectancy of 76.7 years with about 66.8 of those years spent in good health.
Life expectancy for U.S. women is 81.5 years with 69.5 years spent in good health. So as we can expect to live more than a decade beyond an official “retirement age” of 65, increasingly there are choices on how to enjoy days without harsh seasons, and where your dollars (or euros) go a long way.
“With a US $3,000 monthly pension you can live very well here,” claims Estrada. “With the same amount in Spain or the United States, it’s much harder. This kind of income in Colombia goes a very long way.”
Property in Vivenza, with its “eternal spring” climate, ranges from $350 million pesos (US $120,000) for 70 square-meters to $900 million (US $300,000) for a two-story house with a garden.
If you don’t want to buy a property, an alternative is to rent, allowing you to ex- change with friends around the world. “The benefit of having a Vivenza is that you’re never alone,” said Estrada.
Additional benefits of retiring in a condo or gated community near Bogotá is peace of mind: knowing that your property is protected by 24-hour security personnel. If you decide to go the other way, however, and purchase a small finca (farm), take into consideration the monthly bills, home help fees, pool, and other maintenance.
But above all, as this architect claims, “after so many years of hard work, no one wants to reach old age alone.”