Senior medical tourism has carved a niche for itself in the medical tourism market. Nearly 45% of medical tourists worldwide are within 40-60 years and individuals aged 60 and above make up 25% of them (Statista). By 2030, 1 out of 6 people will be 60 years or above, which will drive senior medical tourism.
Baby boomers, 76 million in number, will be the most interesting category to watch. They often travel overseas for medical travel, andstay for longer periods. This trend will further boost medical tourism businesses as this population is most likely to seek third-party assistance for end-to-end support.
People deciding to spend their retired lives in low-cost destinations is also supporting the growth of senior medical tourism. Let us study the different aspects of this form of medical tourism taking into account the advantages and disadvantages.
In this guide you will read about:
Guide to Medical Tourism for Seniors –Drivers, Retirement Tourism, Things to Consider, Destinations, Pros and Cons and Other Tips
Reasons for the growth of senior medical tourism
Convenience, affordable costs and minimal wait periods are the three main factors that fuel medical tourism. However, the main contributing factor to senior medical tourism is the minimal wait times in the destination when compared to the same back home.
Affordable costs also play a role here as more senior citizens find it easier to cross the border and buy prescription for lower costs than paying huge amounts of money for the same medicines in their own country.
More and more pensioners are choosing to travel and stay in private residential care facilities in medical tourism destinations. This increased demand for such facilities has spurred the growth of several private initiatives dedicated to serving senior medical patients.
Initiatives being put in place for senior medical tourism
With the increasing number of baby boomers opting for medical travel, it would only be considered natural for several medical tourism destinations to take appropriate measures to welcome them.
For instance, several hospitals in Asia and the U.S. have launched special emergency departments that cater specifically to senior medical tourists. Many hospitals have also launched emergency centers that would offer quality health care for senior medical tourists with non-life threatening emergencies.
Best Countries in Latin America for senior medical tourism
Although senior medical tourism is on the rise, it is yet to spread to several medical tourism destinations. For baby boomers in the U.S., traveling to Latin America for treatment and a long holiday afterwards sounds more lucrative owing to the closeness to home. Accordingly, a number of Latin American countries have started experiencing an increased influx of baby boomers from the U.S. and UK in the past few years. Some of the more popular destinations in this list include Brazil, Costa Rica, Puerto Rico, Ecuador, Panama, Mexico, Colombia and Aruba. These destinations offer several benefits over other medical tourism destinations, including availability of high quality healthcare services, affordable cost of living, temperate climate and long stay visa availability, etc.
Senior medical tourism is on the rise, what with many baby boomers opting to travel overseas for medical purposes followed by a long holiday in the chosen destination. Many destinations have also started offering attractive medical and long-term residential facilities for these senior medical tourists.
Medical tourism as a healthcare option for the elderly
Rising healthcare costs make it most difficult for the elderly to receive medical treatments and services. They are at a life stage when the health usually declines and they do not have sufficient financial resources to fund their treatments or surgeries. Their insurances also trim down and the leftover resources are majorly utilized to sustain their normal life. Under these conditions, it becomes essential for the elderly to look for affordable healthcare solutions. This only gets possible when they go abroad on medical tourism. Outside their own country, they may get various options to receive proper treatment at excellent facilities and within minimal financial resources.
While healthcare travel or medical tourism can be a boon for the elderly, it could also be dangerous for somebody who is not fit for travel. According to one’s physical fitness and after proper consultation with the doctor, one should plan to go abroad for treatment.
The elderly usually seek specialized healthcare or surgical procedures when they go to another country for treatment. Some elderly people also go overseas for cosmetic surgeries and chronic illness treatments. Many a time, it is difficult for older people to keep waiting in long queues for receiving medical consultations. This factor leads them to take up medical tourism as an option.
Most of the countries do not keep their medical tourists waiting in queues. They are given treatments on a priority basis. Sometimes, elderly people do not find proper treatments for their age-related medical conditions. In these cases too, they can opt for healthcare travel. Some of the procedures that they may receive in other countries include anti-aging radical therapies, kidney transplants, joint replacement, dental procedures, cardiovascular surgeries, stem cell treatment, etc. Many elderly people have to depend on alternative therapies that are sometimes not easily available within their home countries. Then, these patients opt for medical tourism.
Elderly people usually benefit from the cost-effectiveness of treatments in other countries. However, they should ensure that their medical trip is undertaken safely. It is better for the elderly to travel with a close family member or relative when they go overseas for treatment purposes. Another advantage of medical tourism for the elderly is to be treated by highly skilled specialists in a specific medical area. However, the elderly should also go through the foreign country’s healthcare laws before taking any treatment abroad.
Tailored Health and Wellness Services for Seniors in Medical Tourism
This is a key segment for medical tourism facilitators to focus on providing senior patientswith hyper-personalized health and wellness experiences transcending conventional treatment and recovery. Given the international settings, emphasizing patient’s holistic well-being is crucial. From thorough health evaluation to creating bespoke integrated medical wellness programs, a patient’s unique medical history, current health status, emotional disposition, and specific wellness needs matter in personalized services for seniors in medical tourism.
Services for elderly patients are diverse encompassing specialized treatments, rehabilitation programs, wellness therapies, nutritional guidance, and mental support. Additionally, it may also include tailored leisure and relaxation activities ensuring a comfortable and delightful experience in a safe and senior-friendly environment. Considering the mental and emotional aspect of the seniorsis important. Communication plays a big role here. A personalized program can be effective only if you take extra care to scrutinize their special needs.
Things to know before the elderly take a medical tourism trip
Skyrocketing costs of private healthcare systems in countries like the US and UK are forcing many individuals to travel overseas for treatment. The most affected of these are the elderly individuals who are plagued by issues like limited medical insurance and limited financial resources to take care of their declining health. Medical tourism may seem as a lucrative option for these individuals. However, the prospect of traveling abroad to an unknown destination for medical treatment comes with its share of pros and cons which are explained here.
Pros of Medical Tourism
The pros of medical tourism have been widely talked about already. Some of the more common reasons why individuals opt for medical travel include the low cost of medical procedures overseas, accessibility to procedures that are either not available or are banned back home, lucrative insurance incentives, high quality of medical care in internationally accredited medical facilities and the chance to enjoy a holiday in an exotic location after treatment.
Elderly mostly the senior retired population with inadequate or zero health coverage can gain significantly from medical tourism. With ample time at their disposal, they can recuperate from any surgery or treatment in the best possible manner amid a pleasant ambience in an exotic destination.
Cons of Medical Tourism
Elderly individuals need to be more wary of the myriad disadvantages and risks that come with medical tourism. The prime concern is the choice of destination and facility for the treatment and the availability of suitable treatment packages.
Elderly seniors are least likely to be agile and long haul flights with transits may cause enough difficulties. If the best affordable package is available at a far—from-home destination, it might turn out to be costly in the long run. Medical tourism facilitators need specialised matchmaking service to fix the right package for them.
Other negative factors include minimal or no legal recourse in the host country as well as at home if something were to go wrong, language, ethical and cultural barriers, stark differences in medical care from country to country and quality of post treatment care.
Best Medical Tourism Destinations for the Elderly
Here are some medical tourism destinations that would be considered a safe choice for elderly individuals.
Boasting of housing some of the world’s best medical facilities that offer international standards of healthcare and hygiene albeit in a cost effective setting, Singapore is a popular medical tourism destination for the elderly who come from Asia, Middle East and even the U.S. and UK. You will find Singapore mentioned in our medical tourism destination guide.
Home to over 30 JCI accredited hospitals,Thailand is one of the best medical tourism destinations for the elderly in Asia. Other salient medical tourism features of the country include the availability of experienced medical personnel, latest medical technology and extremely affordable cost of treatments.
Low cost coupled with world class medical facilities and qualified professionals make India a lucrative medical tourism destination for individuals from around the world.
Mexico is a great option for patients who wish to stay close to home while undergoing treatment for complex procedures at affordable costs. Mexican hospitals are popular for a range of medical procedures like bariatric surgery, dental treatments and plastic surgery.
Rising healthcare costs are forcing more and more elderly individuals to opt for medical treatment overseas. In addition to being wary about the various pros and cons that surround medical tourism, one would need to choose the best and safest destinations for medical travel, and so we have listed the country in our medical tourism destination guide.
Growing trends of retirement Tourism – an offshoot of medical tourism
Retirement tourism is aimed to live better for less. This is an evolving niche segment where retired people are on the lookout for a quality healthy life through tourism activity within affordable means. Travel often becomes a way of life for the senior retired people and they are labeled as grey-nomads.
Retired people may also choose to dwell in countries with warmer climates and excellent healthcare facilities within affordable range as the cost of health maintenance at this phase of life becomes one of their prime concerns.
Medical vacation for the retired class may extend for few months and even years. It is the baby boomers who are fuelling the growth of this niche tourism being fully aware that they are going to live longer but want to live better. Medical tourism facilitator companies need to create attractive packages for seniors and find the right destination for them.
Factors driving retirement tourism
It is normal for the senior retired class to spend the golden years after an active working life in their home soil expecting additional nourishment from the roots to survive healthily. In reality, the situation is quite different.
Let us consider the example of the US currently having 46 million senior people above 65 years which is expected to cross 98 million by 2060. Healthcare expense in this country is growing at an unprecedented speed. Health insurance is also turning out to be an overwhelming expense costing thousands of dollars per year. Above all, they have to deal with long waiting times and pay out-of-the-pocket medical expense which is often beyond affordability.
The silver generation, especially from economically developed nations, has propelled medical tourism by setting the trend of accessing quality and affordable healthcare beyond the borders. Now, the same class is flocking to other countries in search of pleasant weather, low cost of living and affordable quality healthcare assistance planning a long-term stay.
They are keen to enjoy a quality life which is sustainable with their restricted earning even being away from their home country. The weaker currency of the destination countries is a bonus attraction allowing better affordability to this class. With medical tourism facilitator companies arranging treatment, visa, travel, accomodation, sight-seeing etc, senior medical tourism is booming.
The pension systems of governments of developed economies are also experiencing great pressure due to this burgeoning aging population. The governments are relaxing immigration policies and exploring alternative options through long stay programs and building overseas retirement communities.
The elderly population from developed countries to drive global urban consumption growth significantly:
A recent study published by the Mckinsey Global Institute states that the retired and elderly population of the developed nations will grow from 164 million in 2015 to 222 million in 2030. They would account for 51% of urban consumption growth in developed nations and 19% of global urban consumption growth.
The retired elderly population belonging to developed nations is projected to generate about $4.4 trillion in global consumption. Their spending on healthcare is projected to grow by $1.4 trillion till 2030. The per capita consumption of this population is about $39,000 per year.
Inheritance is also going to play a significant role in the growth of retirement tourism. It would be interesting to note that 57% of baby boomers residing in Canada are expected to inherit an estimated $1 trillion in the coming two decades making it the largest inter-generational wealth transfer.
1 out of 5 would inherit more than $100,000. One-third of them would inherit in the range of $25,000- $100,000. Considering the similar healthcare scenario in Canada where unprecedented long waiting periods are heavily taxing on the elderly generation, it is quite likely they would contemplate retirement tourism to avail better medical facilities.
Accessibility to quality healthcare and affordability is the key
Many well-famed tourism destinations are leaving no stone unturned to create a robust healthcare infrastructure creating affordable medical packages for this growing customer base taking in full consideration the necessity of quality healthcare support, which is likely to grow with further aging.
Tourism destinations of Latin America and Asia are bundling leisure activities, entertainment, rejuvenation and medical services at attractive prices which the retired class is likely to grab.
Why this special focus on Silver Generation?
Travel and tourism is perhaps the most dynamic sector of all. It always opens up newer opportunities throwing competitive challenges in equal proportion. To maintain business sustainability, the tourism destinations have no way but to look for new niche markets and develop unique products and services accordingly. In the current scenario, the ‘Silver Generation’ is set to catch the attention of key players of the medical tourism sector.
Emerging destinations grabbing the share of tourism pie
More and more new destinations are cropping up in the global tourism map taking a slice of the lucrative tourism pie. As a result, many well known destinations are experiencing a decline in the average visitor stay, which is hitting their bottom line. They are seriously concentrating on retirement tourism offering unique personalized services to attract international retired community.
Retired people prefer extended stay and spend more
Hectic tourism is definitely not their cup of tea. They prefer extended schedule and a tranquil stay. Most importantly, they tend to stay for a longer period than the average tourists and naturally spend more.
Most retired people look for affordable non-invasive medical assistance in anti-aging treatments and dentistry which usually do not come under health insurance coverage. They are generally accompanied by family and friends which automatically turns out to be a big gain for the destination.
All season tourist
Retired people enjoy year-round holiday. They need not wait for any special holiday season. If there is an urgent requirement of accessing beyond the border medical assistance, they may not give importance to a specific travel season. The destinations can reap the maximum benefit out of this as they would see year-round tourist visit with better occupancy rates in accommodation.
Moreover, opting for off season vacationing fetches great financial gains to the retired class due to the price drop in travel, food and accommodation. Along with the availability of low-cost medical services, the retired people would not hesitate for a longer stay in the selected destinations.
Tapping this ‘Pot of Gold’
Many Latin American and Asian countries have shot into global limelight by including retirement tourism as an important part of medical tourism. These countries have chalked out well planned strategies to attract hordes of retired people.
What makes these destinations attractive for retirement tourism?
- Latin American countries are most favored by the US medical tourists which also includes a substantial portion of retired class. The quality of medical facilities in these countries offered by top-notch hospitals is not only at par with those available in the US and Canada but are even better.
- Availability of surprisingly low cost health insurance plans. Often hospital membership is offered as an alternative to health insurance.
- Well developed expat towns, for example in Mexico, offer assisted living facilities allowing the retirees a long term stay.
- Thailand and Philippines are also issuing visas allowing a long term stay or permanent dwelling.
- Some countries are also running foreign retiree programs since quite some time.
- English speaking staff or certified translation department hired by top notch hospitals help in easing out communication barriers of senior expats encouraging them for a long-term stay.
- Improved concierge services and air-connectivity are also favoring retirement tourism as the silver generation is left with lots of choices.
Senior medical tourism will be one of the largest consumers of medical tourism services in near future due to the growing need of affordable and quality healthcare. The best way to win them is to take extra care for every big and small needs apart from those related to treatments.