By Eloise Horsfield
THERE’S no doubt about it, Spain is a great place to be if you’re over 50 – and that’s not only because of the sun!
A straightforward transport network, easy access to English-speaking services and a strong sense of community has made Andalucia a magnet for older people seeking a better life.
And, as if to prove Spain’s popularity for this age group, there’s even a lifestyle event, The Over 50s Show, kicking off this weekend, aimed especially at the young at hearts.
So what makes Spain so popular for this age group?
“I just love Spain for what it offers to my generation,” says 61-year-old Paul Whitelock, who has lived in Ronda for three years.
“The relaxed lifestyle and the stunning scenery, particularly in Andalucia, is a big draw,” he adds.
“I also enjoy life on the streets. Everyone goes out. In France and Germany, everything shuts at seven and the streets are dead.”
Paul admits however that the situation in Spain has got harder for pensioners who have struggled because of the exchange rate between the pound and the euro.
While one pound sterling was worth 1.66 euros back in 2000, today it is closer to 1.20.
“The problems start when your money doesn’t last,” said Paul.
But although many non-Spaniards have had to head home in recent years following the economic downturn and slump in the pound, the expat scene is still booming.
According to John Serle, 81, it is easy to point to some of Spain’s simpler joys.
“I’m sitting in the sun now having a tortilla and a coffee,” says the Fuengirola man, originally from London.
“I’ve lived here 22 years. I get around to so many places and I just love the easy way of life.
“And you can smile at someone’s baby without them thinking you’re a paedophile,” he adds.
Meanwhile, Carolyn Emmett, 57, who recently moved to Spain with her husband after prolonged spells in Indonesia, Botswana and South Africa, has really embraced the community feel of her new home, Montejaque.
“I’ve come from Johannesburg, a big city with guns, to a little village where I can leave my front door open with my handbag in the doorway, and nobody will steal it,” she says.
“I’ve now even started a local group so ladies like myself can share their skills – perhaps ones they didn’t even know they had.
“We’ll be here for at least 10 years – or until we get too old to climb up the mountain,” she adds.
For likeminded people The Over 50s Show in Estepona – now in its fifth year – is a one-stop shop to access information on your physical and financial health, pick up new hobbies and meet your peers.
“The event is aimed squarely at expats but Spaniards are very welcome too,” explains organiser John Low, an Irishman, who is also a trained journalist.
Activities include internet tuition, wine tasting, golf lessons, make-overs and antiques valuations by experts.
In particular, bridge was one of the most popular events last year, and this year champion Paul Agius will be providing lessons in English and Spanish for beginners and intermediates and giving advice on organising bridge parties.
“Bowling is also very popular on the coast, so we’ll have an indoor mat so people can see if they have an aptitude,” says John.
Moreover the appeal of the event is even stronger given the economic slump – especially as entry and all activities are completely free.
“The fact that the show has survived when many have folded is a tribute to the great support we have had from the business community and visitors,” says John.
“Even a massive rainstorm last year did not stop people making the effort,” he adds.
The Over 50s Show takes place in Estepona on November 26 and 27.