Mexico’s Yucatan state is a tropical paradise and a paradise for history and archeology buffs… but a retirement paradise for U.S. Baby Boomers?

Developing Yucatan into a Mecca for Americans 50 year of age and older was the action plan being discussed at a meeting of government officials, local entrepreneurs, and international consultants held in Merida, Yucatan, on Wednesday April 7 titled “Adults Over 50 – The Housing, Attention and Service Industry.”

Coordinated by the Governor’s Office of Finance and Development, the meeting brought together movers and shakers from around the state and the globe to determine how best to make Merida and Yucatan State a top destination for a future flood of U.S. retirees looking for a quality life at a lower cost.

According to speaker David Collins, consultant and managing partner of Active Living International, there will be 100 million Americans 50 years of age or older by 2012.

Collins said that meeting the needs of this huge group will be a major economic driver for the housing and health care industries for years to come.

He said Yucatan state is uniquely positioned to meet those needs at a fraction of the cost for similar services in the U.S.

“Merida (Yucatan’s capital) is safe, welcoming, has good transportation and energy infrastructure, a great climate, and is close to the U.S.” said Collins.

“Real estate and labor prices here are very inexpensive compared to the U.S. If the right combination of residential properties and health care facilities are available, then all the elements are here to draw retirees who are looking for alternatives to higher-priced U.S. retirement options.”

Collins warned, however, that few countries seeking to draw U.S. retirees to their shores understand the radical shifts that the 50+ housing and health markets have gone through in America.

“If you’re still building rows of half-million-dollar beach and golf course homes for wealthy American retirees, you don’t understand what’s happened,” said Collins.

“In the wake of the global economic crisis and the health care debate in the U.S., Americans are no longer focused on status, exclusivity, luxury, amenities, and golf,” said Collins.

“Their focus now is on smaller residential properties with long-term value in places that have a sense of community and an active social life. They are focused on what I call ‘QTR’… Quality Time Remaining.

“They want lower-cost properties in desirable locations that they can use now for vacation homes and rental income. They want them to be good quality and low maintenance, preferably with on-site rental management. And they want to be able to retire comfortably in these properties when the time comes, knowing that they are near top-quality assisted living and long-term health care facilities.”

The nature of those assisted living and long-term facilities is crucial, said Marco Álvarez, director of Dabvsa, a Mexican company that builds and operates adult care facilities.

“We’re talking about something called continuing care retirement communities,” said Álvarez. “These are places that offer a spectrum of care, from independent living to assisted living to around-the-clock nursing care. They make the transition between these care levels as easy and natural as possible for consumers and their families.

“Americans assume the presence of these facilities in the U.S., but not in Mexico. Having facilities like this in Merida, with the accompanying cost savings in labor over the U.S., could complete the picture of the Yucatan as a high-quality, low-cost retirement destination for that huge number of future U.S. retirees.”

The meeting was held in cooperation with Universidad del Mayab and Instituto Cumbres in Merida and COPARMEX Merida, an association of businessmen, real estate professionals, and developers. All present agreed that it would take the combined effort and cooperation of state government, economic education and research facilities, and the local business community to successfully develop and implement a strategy to make Yucatan a real “paradise for the retiree.”

“Here in Yucatan and Merida we have everything going for us right now,” said Sergio Raimond, professor of Economics at the Pan-American Institute of Business Policy (IPAD). “This is our opportunity to take advantage of or ours to lose.”

Merida is already home to several hundred U.S. expats, many of whom moved for better weather, lower cost of living, and more affordable health care.