A special benefit for retiring to Costa Rica is the likelihood that seniors will stay sharper longer.
A combination of factors promotes the mental health of seniors. The first, of course, is the weather and what researchers call seasonal affective disorder. For most residents in places where the seasons change, this is called the winter blues, a form of depression. The remedy is sunlight, something that Costa Rica has plenty of even when the rains come in the afternoons during some months.
Another remedy for holding off dementia and other types of mental decline is a good diet. In Costa Rica fresh vegetables, fruits and preparations high in vitamins not only are available all year but they are on the low end of the budget. Someone can end up with bags of wonderful vegetables, fruits and homemade pastries and sauces for under $10 at ferias or farmers markets.
Research also shows that mental challenges can keep the brain sharp. The very act of moving from one place to another requires the kind of metal agility that exercises the brain. And that does not even consider the additional challenges of moving from one culture to another.
And anyone who plans to spend retirement in Costa Rica is obligated to take another step, that is in learning Spanish.
There are plenty of schools and programs designed for the older adult. Even single seniors will find themselves accepted better into the culture with a little of the local language.
But then there is the additional advantage that research shows that speaking a second language may delay the onset of three types of dementias. In a study published in November, researchers found that people who spoke two languages developeddementia four and a half years later than people who only spoke one language.
“Our study is the first to report an advantage of speaking two languages in people who are unable to read, suggesting that a person’s level of education is not a sufficient explanation for this difference,” said study author Suvarna Alladi, who is with Nizam’s Institute of Medical Sciences in Hyderabad, India. He was quoted in a summary prepared by the American Academy of Neurology, which published the full report in its medical journal.
The subjects in the study all had one or another form of dementia. Some 240 had Alzheimer’s disease, 189 had vascular dementia and 116 had frontotemporal dementia, with the remainder having dementia with Lewy bodies and mixed dementia, said the academy.
Bilingual adults had a later onset of these forms of dementia, according to the study. Researchers eliminated many other factors, such as education, gender, occupation or whether the subjects lived in the city or country.
But there is another big reason that the culture in Costa Rica protects seniors. The people here just like older adults, perhaps because many come from multi-generational families. Seniors get preference in bank lines, medical waiting rooms and in other situations second only to very pregnant women. Seniors also get to ride some buses for free and others at a discount.