The Baby Boomer's Guide To Expat Life

Wednesday 27 August 2014 8:24AM

Traditionally happy to retire ‘up the coast’, older Australians are increasingly choosing to spend their golden years in more exotic locales. Lucien Alperstein takes a look at what’s driving retirees to head to South East Asia in droves.

More and more Australians are retiring to a life of luxury in paradise. At least that’s the conclusion of Sell-up, Pack-up and Take Off, a book that’s part research, part yarn and part guide.

According to husband and wife journalists Colleen Ryan and Stephen Wyatt, there’s a new diaspora of people over the age of 50 who’ve decided to sell up and take off for overseas. With the number of Australians aged over 65 set to reach eight million over the next 35 years, the trend is nothing to sneeze at.

What's driving the people to South East Asia is that they can't live really well in Australia once they are retired, whereas they can live very, very well in South East Asia.

COLLEEN RYAN, AUTHOR

While many people dream of retirement in a village piazza in Southern Europe, the reality is that most retire to South East Asia, where the cost of living is up to 80 per cent cheaper than in Australia. Both Malaysia and Thailand offer retirees extended visas, making the transition a simpler process.

‘The baby boomers are very comfortable with South East Asia,’ says Ryan. ‘A lot of them did their early travel in South East Asia, they’ve taken the kids on holidays there and so while the dream has been Italy or France, to some extent that's been for the really wealthy.’

‘What's driving the people to South East Asia is that they can't live really well in Australia once they are retired, whereas they can live very, very well in South East Asia.’

Cities like Penang, Saigon and Chiang Mai play host to whole communities of Australians, and annual events like the International Writers’ Festival in the Balinese town of Ubud mean that western intellectuals set up permanently, knowing they will have a stimulating community to join.

While baby boomers tend to live in predominantly western communities, some, particularly in Malaysia, are more integrated into local communities.

Aged care and declining health are of major concern to retirees overseas, and some countries offer better options than others, according to the authors.

‘When you're moving to another country and you're over 60 you're walking time bomb,’ Wyatt says.

According to him, Malaysia and Thailand have excellent healthcare systems but many retirees who choose to live elsewhere utilise evacuation insurance.

Growing old in your own home is also more feasible for retirees in developing countries, with 24-hour care much more affordable.

Furthermore, the isolation faced by people who live overseas has been overcome to some extent by technology, which allows grandparents, their children and grandchildren to stay in touch with ease.

Convincing the relatives to visit is no doubt a lot easier too, with cheap flights and a holiday in South East Asia a very enticing offer indeed.