Our lives will forever be changed by COVID-19. I didn’t know I could slow down, and I certainly didn’t know I could actually cook, but I do both now with ease. I read books and I make a great curry. I’ve watched as Mother Earth has begun a cleansing. You can see the Los Angeles skyline. I’m working hard to personally figure next steps and what our new normal is going to be when this pandemic is actually all over.
Panama continues to be strident in enforcing social distancing, wearing masks, aggressively testing and limiting when people can be out of their homes, but as of May 13 the first restrictions were lifted. To reestablishing commercial activity, maintenance on swimming pools, air conditioners and elevators are now allowed, and individual families can begin to fish. It is not a lot, but it is a beginning. The government has laid out a plan of six steps and this is the first. Reopening the airport and restaurants is step four and children returning to school is in step five. We’ll see how everything goes!
COVID-19 Likes Warm Weather
As of today, there have been 8,944 confirmed cases and 256 deaths in Panama. I’m not sure how to respond to some North Americans who tell me the virus will abate when the weather warms up. It’s very warm in Panama and we have more confirmed cases than much larger countries like Australia, Argentina and Malaysia. The good news is we have a much lower death rate than most other countries.
Our health system has not been overwhelmed and there are enough ventilators and personal protective equipment for front line workers and patients. The government continues to provide food for those in need and except for a few incidents, everyone has remained calm. We are living quietly and peacefully.
Mr. Bern Is Recovering!
My friend and employer, Herman Bern, Sr. is recovering from the virus and is expected to be released from the hospital soon. Currently, we have almost as many recovered cases as we have active ones.
Women can still only go out of the house for two hours on Monday, Wednesday and Friday and men can leave for two hours on Tuesday and Thursday. The government, however, is now considering reopening Saturday for men to leave their homes. No one, except essential workers, can be out on Sunday, but churches are slated to open in step two. Everything seems to be in slow motion.
A Time for Research
This time has allowed for a great deal of research and planning concerning what individuals who are considering moving to or investing in Panama, might want after COVID-19. How will things change? To that end, we worked with some of the best minds in the business and I am excited to share a completely new residential concept which has just been announced by Jose Manuel Bern and Empresas Bern.
A New Concept of Retirement
Independent Senior Living @ Generation Tower will cater to individuals 55 years and over and will provide an incredible array of benefits for a monthly fee. As part of our process we interviewed seniors in both the United States and Canada and asked them what would keep them from or allow them to enjoying retirement in Panama. We just kept peeling back the layers to better understand broad topics and then we sought answers and recommendations.
We heard loud and clear that one of the main things which worried seniors, or soon-to-be seniors, was access to top-notch healthcare. “As much as I’d love to retire in Panama, I can’t, because I can’t abandon Medicare,” we were told by both people living in the States and Canada. We knew Medicare was a universal right in Canada and that it was free, but soon we realized there were many caveats. Of course, in the United States, Medicare only kicks in when seniors reach 65-years-of-age and it certainly is not even inexpensive, much less free.
The True Cost of Health Insurance
So, we started asking about the true cost of Medicare. Healthcare in Canada is provided to everyone, but most people carry additional policies to cover the cost of prescriptions, vision and dental procedures as well as paying for other health related services not covered by Medicare. Since Medicare begins at age 65 in the US, many people have a very hard time even finding a policy. “I lost my job at 58,” one man said, “so I had to work for $12 an hour at a bookstore just to be able to get insurance. I couldn’t afford a policy on my own. My salary barely covered my portion of the health insurance and the co-pays on my prescriptions. I have pre-existing conditions and knew an employer-sponsored policy was pretty much my only option. I’m not sure it was good for my health to stand seven hours a day, but I did, just to have health insurance.”
We heard about co-pays on prescriptions as high as $555 and how US-based Medicare paid only 80% and left the remaining 20% for the individual. “Procedures are so costly in the United States, I couldn’t get my hip replaced because I couldn’t afford my portion,” another woman told us. She finally got the new hip when she found an insurance policy through AARP that cost her about $200 a month. We kept adding up what healthcare was costing individuals and was blown away with the aggregate monthly amount. I will admit, it was shocking when a woman explained she was paying over $1,600 a month for health insurance for herself and her husband.
Healthcare the Biggest Concern, But Not the Only
Healthcare was absolutely the number one concern, but it was not the only concern. “I worry about falling,” said a woman in her late 60s and I worry about being alone; not having companionship,” she continued. “I’m not looking for a great love affair—I’ve had that—but I want to have friends around!”
“I’m not much of a cook,” said a gentleman in his late 50s, “and I want to golf—a lot!”
“If I retire to Florida, I think the kids and grandchildren would visit more, but I don’t know if I can afford a place on the beach—or even near the beach,” commented a woman in her 70s. “It’s a long drive from Michigan, but maybe for holidays.”
Biking, Great Food & Wine
“The last thing I want to do is sit in a chair and wait for the phone to ring,” another gentleman told us. “I want to ride my bike until I’m 90 and I want to have access to great food and wine. The minute you give up staying active is the minute you realize you are older,” he laughed.
“There is one thing I never want to do again and that is mow my yard,” a man in his early 70s said. “I have mowed a yard since I was 11 years-old and I’m not going to want some ‘Honey Do’ list when I decide to actually retire.”
“I’m with you on no maintenance, but I still manage my rental properties on-line, chimed in another man. “Airbnb was really doing a great job for me until this COVID-19 crisis. I know people will return to Orlando and I want to be ready to rebuild my business,” said another man.
Driving at Night A Challenge
A lady in her eighties admitted, “I’m really having a hard time driving at night. I just can’t see as well as I used to and so I rarely go out after dusk. It just makes me too nervous.”
“I don’t want to live with a bunch of old people,” laughed a woman in her late 60s. I know I’m old, but I have more friends in their 40s than in their 60s. I like all ages and I want to give back. Right now, I’m tutoring sixth graders in math in an economically distressed area of Chicago and I don’t want to give that up—especially as more of the curtain has been pulled back with the pandemic. I had no idea how food insecure people were. Sometimes you just don’t see it.”
It was fun hearing from everyone, and we learned a great deal so, with enough time on our hands, we developed a program that covers most of these concerns. Four floors of the stunning residential Generation Tower located in up-scale Costa del Este will be set aside for active individuals and couples aged 55 years and over. It’s called Independent Senior Living @ Generation Tower (ISL).
The Package Includes Almost Everything
Individuals who choose to live in the Independent Senior Living @ Generation Tower will be provided a paid group health insurance policy with the option of covering pre-existing conditions, dental, prescription and vision coverage. Health insurance rates are much lower in Panama, but the quality is not compromised. The residential complex will be steps away from the second Johns Hopkins International hospital in Panama. When completed, the facility will be accredited by the Joint Commission, the gold standard for care in the United States. https://www.jointcommission.org/. The first Hopkins facility, located in the Panama City section of Punta Pacifica, is also Joint Commission accredited and home to one of the world’s leading stem cell research facilities.
Also, steps away and adjacent to Town Center Mall are medical offices for most specialties. Insurance will probably cover everything, but if it doesn’t, be prepared to pay as much as $20 for a doctor visit and $250-$300 for a root canal. As part of the ISL program, a staff of medical professionals will be on-site managing prescriptions, taking blood pressure and monitoring the full spectrum of health devices which will be in every unit.
Individual EKG, glucose and blood pressure monitoring devices, for all ISL participants will be part of the program. Based on the fact Herman Bern, Sr. did not monitor his oxygen level prior to being diagnosed with COVID-19, oxygen monitors will also be part of the ISL program. “If we’d been smart enough to measure it, my father would have gained two days and never been as ill,” the younger Bern explained.
Parking and Transportation
The ISL participants will enjoy both transportations provided on an as-needed and appointment basis throughout Costa del Este as well as a underground reserved parking spot in Generation Tower. Grocery shopping and medical appointments will be easily managed. Transportation outside Costa del Este will be arranged by the ISL concierge for an added cost.
Other facets of the program include a breakfast station much like the Club Level at upscale hotels, complete with snacks throughout the day. To provide variety and choice in food, ISL members will be provided with a meal card which can be used throughout food providers in Costa del Este. Everything from Subway and Starbucks to the finest restaurants. Even the up-scale specialty grocery will be covered and if a member wants to cook, all units will have full kitchens. Discounts will be provided when using the ISL Visa card.
An Activity Director, dedicated to ISL participants, will arrange for all types of functions including golf outings, Zumba, yoga, water aquatics, dining trips and wine tastings. All the amenities of Generation Tower can be enjoyed by the ISL members including the infinity pool, Sky Bar, outdoor theater, jogging track, Tai chi studio, business center, lounges, and social areas.
ISL members will enjoy another stunning perk. In an effort to make it easier for the grandchildren and friends to visit, Copa Airlines, hubbed in Panama City and with direct flights from cities such as Miami, New York, San Francisco, Toronto, Orlando, Chicago and Montreal, will provide tickets at deeply discounted prices. The number of annual tickets will be limited, but it should be easier for families to fly in as opposed to loading up the family van.
No Housekeeping; No Maintenance; No Worries
If you want to clean your unit, you can, but as part of the ISL program, weekly housekeeping and bi-annual deep cleaning will be provided along with linen service. If something goes wrong inside the unit, a team of maintenance professionals will complete every task from changing light bulbs to fixing a drippy faucet. The grounds will also be someone else’s responsibility. Internet, water, electricity, and cable will be included. Handicapped accessible doorways, safety bars and quick call buttons will be part of the program.
The Independent Senior Living program @ Generation Tower will only consist of 48-units ranging in size from 550 to 700 square feet allowing for double or single occupancy with a sliding rental agreement. Individuals may elect to simply purchase a unit and allow it to be rented, creating a revenue stream returning approximately 10%. Additionally, a unit may be purchased with the intent of it being a primary residence. Those units would carry a reduced monthly rental rate. On-site property management ensures a seamless process for both the investor and the renter, even if they are one in the same.
A Responsible Footprint with High-End Amenities
The full spectrum of the Independent Senior Living @ Generation Tower has been designed to offer active seniors an unmatched affordable lifestyle. Fewer worries with companionship and travel opportunities. Let me discuss the details—you will be amazed.