What do you do when you want something more and different than you’re getting in your home country? For an increasing number of 60+ women, the answer is to move overseas.

According to the data we collected through our website, Best Places in the World to Retire, there can be a better life out there, if you are willing to uproot and reinvent yourself as an expat in Belize, Nicaragua or Panama.

In addition to the over 5,000 answers and 200 stories on our website, in early July, we released Expats: Expectations & Reality, the first in a series of studies reporting the results of a survey of expats, mainly from the U.S. and Canada and living in Panama, Belize and Nicaragua. For Sixty and Me, we broke out the results just for women, 45 and older (the closest age category we had).

The following are seven smart and reasonable aims these women happily pursued in these small Central American countries.

Retiring Abroad - Things-You-Thought-You-Could-Achieve

Change Your Vantage Point, Change your Direction

The first question in our survey asked what our respondents thought they could achieve by moving abroad. Men and women were surprisingly similar in their responses, except that the responses for women were even more heavily weighted towards non-material reasons.

For example, 85.3% of senior women sought a “simpler, less stressful life”, while 64.1% wanted a “more romantic, exotic, or adventurous life” than they had in their home country. Playing “against type”, 30.8% more women than men wanted a less materialistic life.

Retiring Abroad - Women-wanted-less-materialism

“There are opportunities abroad that you cannot find at home to make your life exactly the way you want it to be. This includes better conditions for your health, better standard of living for less, more opportunities to start a business and develop important contacts… and to create a new vision of the world from a new point in the world. At any age, the promise can be found, and unhappiness no longer is a way of life.” – Daryl Ries, female, 45+, from U.S., living in Panama

Gather with Similar Souls

Many women sought to be around others who wanted to eschew a conventional life, more adventurous life; people who shared their carefree attitude.

“Find a group of kindred spirits – a bit bohemian and a lot adventuresome.” — Female, Age 65+, Single, Fully retired, from U.S., living in Belize for less than 2 years

Ditch the Old Persona

Among many of the senior woman we interviewed, there was a strong desire for “reinvention,” which is easier to do when living overseas. This was not the end of their growth, but a new stage of their evolution.

Why would it be easier “reinvent” oneself overseas? Here are the two most common reasons we were told:

1. The change of being in a new place, with new experiences, makes it easier to break old habits and

2. A new set of friends, peer and social groups with no prior expectations of you doesn’t force you into the same “box” they’ve known you to be in.

“I wanted a place to recreate myself, live more adventurously, learn a new language and culture… grow.”– Elizabeth Worley, female, 45+, from U.S., living in Panama

Reap Respect in Retirement

For those who dared to cut the secure ties of family and familiar places in this stage in their lives, our respondents sought out kindness and understanding in these more traditional societies, which was especially desired by women who lived alone.

“The local people, in general, are wonderfully helpful. It’s like living in the U.S. in the 1950s. People stop for you on the road if you look like you need help. Older women are especially respected and helped with carrying things or given a hand for support in walking over rough terrain, etc. Doctors give you as much time as you need during appointments. They give you their cell phone number and usually appointments can be made with little or no waiting time.”– Female, age 65-plus, married, fully retired, from U.S., living in Panama for more than 10 years

Face the Future with Financial Security

The female transplants who responded to our study hoped that moving abroad would solve the problem of how to exist and thrive while managing on a fixed retirement income and not having to continue to work to sustain themselves.

“After living to work I suddenly found myself unable to get a job. It was a blessing. Though I was concerned about making my dollars stretch further, it also made me focus on what I’d been missing. In short, I was receiving the gift of time and finally take a deep breath and say, ‘How then shall I live?’ The cosmic question resonates daily and often echoes the word, ‘tranquilo.'”– Female, age 65-plus, single, semi-retired, from U.S., living in Panama for two to five years

Embrace Exploration

At the crossroads of life, where obligations are through and no one is dependent on you, a decision can be made that is more for yourself.

“Had a perfect window of time with nothing to hold me back and decided to have an adventure instead of working just to keep a roof over my head.“– Female, age 45-64, Single, Fully Retired, from US, living in Nicaragua for less than 2 years

Find America… When They Were Growing Up

Many women longed for the America they lived in growing up, but that seemed to have changed in ways they didn’t like. The irony is that many women sought the America of their childhood this by leaving the U.S.

“I can’t say enough about a fresh start and living a life completely different from where you left. Very simply you have to realize what is valuable to you … the hubbub of the life you came from or a life where you actually have the kind of friends you did in the 1950’s in the States. — Female, age 45-64, married, working full time, from U.S., living in Belize for more than 10 years

See the Best Places in the World study Expats: Expectations & Reality to get the statistical breakdown of the respondents’ answers and more of the queries about their lives abroad.

We’d love to hear your perspective on this. Have you retired abroad? If so, what was your experience? If not, would you consider relocating to a new country in retirement? Why or why not? Please join the conversation.

Jet-MetierJet Metier provides creative direction for Best Places in the World to Retire, where her interviews of expats and stories abroad can be seen. She is the editor of Panama The 62 Things You Need to Know and created all the infographics for the study Expats: Expectations & Reality. She lives happily with her first love and husband and their two dogs in their dream home in Southern Arizona and enjoys her senior discounts at Ross Dress for Less almost weekly.

Best Countries to Retire – Panama, Belize, Nicaragua

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