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'Me caso siempre y cuando no me saques de aquí' (I do, only if you don't get me out of here)

People, objects, environment, messages and services at Residencial las Quintas in Cuernavaca.

Photo of Marea Saldarriaga
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I visited Residencial las Quintas and conversed with a group of 5 retired ladies ranging between 68-78 years old, living an exemplary retirement experience.

The observational research framework POEMS (People, Objects, Environment, Messages and Services) was applied to cover as much detail as possible and to encourage comprehensiveness of the whole context.

The following text and pictures can be examined by section or as an interrelated system.


The ladies decided to relocate to a residence in Cuernavaca* which has a reputation of hosting a large foreign retired population but Residencial las Quintas is specially renowned for being one of the best alternatives for retired people. Their slogan is A thrill to live again...

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Reception and hall Residencial las Quintas
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Lady coming back from town

*Cuernavaca is located south of Mexico City, from which it may be reached after a drive of approximately 1 hour. The city was nicknamed the "City of Eternal Spring" by Alexander von Humboldt in the nineteenth century. It has long been a favorite escape for Mexico City and foreign visitors because of this warm, stable climate and abundant vegetation.

Cuernavaca's vegetation


We had a very pleasant time together, the lady who hosted the session, offered wine and canapés, encouraging a relaxing atmosphere. The conversation was mostly about various ways to prepare for retirement versus dying, the word old people’s home never came up they consistently called the place residence.

The ladies were inspired to move into a place like this because they were either never married, separated, or widows.

They emphasized that it would have been tricky to convince their partners to move into a place like this, although they did not expressed it they sounded happy to have been able to fulfill their plans even though their respective partners did not make it.

They did not want to end up alone but did not want to bother their families.

I planned for this ages ago, I’ve always said once my children get married I would move to a place like this.

I couldn’t live with my son because I would be judging their lifestyle and it is simply not right.

Most tenants belong to the same socio-economic and cultural contexts and have similar education backgrounds. Some even came from the same elementary school. Most were raised Catholic and some are still churchgoers.

Objects & Environment:

Each person here has an apartment-style suite with a kitchen, dining table, sofa and bedroom with ensuite bathroom. Additional facilities are provided within the building such as a dining hall for meals, private rooms for private gatherings, a gym, a chapel etc. The studios are paid on a rental basis and on top of that there is an initial deposit required to buy in perpetuity that varies according to the size of the suite.

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Dinning hall


Diverse recreation activities are included in the monthly fee, and some form of healthcare (a General physician available 24/7 A nurse (caregiver) is paid for separately.

There is a library, a gymnasium where they have yoga and meditation classes. There are plenty of green areas around the property and there is a nursery where tenants store and look after their plants.

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The recreation activities are announced daily in the dining hall, on that day they had this schedule:

10:00-11:00 Tai-chi
11:30-1:00 Computing
I-pad workshop
3:30 Aqua aerobics

According to the lady who guided me around the place most classes are fun, except Computing as the teacher is inpatient and so she does not feel to have excelled her use of the computer.

There was a quote on the bulletin board that read Waiting for the perfect time tends to be fear’s favourite trap.

The weekly menu is published so that guests can know in advance the food that they are going to get each day and plan accordingly. This is handy because not all people stay there permanently, there are people that are out and about most day and just come back to sleep.

Tenants have a choice to invite guests over and pay an accessible amount for meals, and even through parties of up to 10 people in private dining rooms. However most of ladies said they preferred to eat out when their relatives come visit them with the exception of one who even has her grandchildren stay over, and they have a lot of fun, they watch movies together and eat popcorn.

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Breakfast, lunch, dessert, dinner menu

The menu seems well balanced, but it does not follow any special dietary requirements.  A lady emphasised the generosity of the portions served, no coincidence that she is an accountant.

There is a cinema theatre where they play movies every evening.

They shared the story of a lady living at the Residence who got married with someone she met outdoors and although she was so pleased with her living situation, she accepted the proposal with one condition; I will, only if you let me stay here -Evidently she was enjoying her independence so much that she was not willing to move out and give that up.

Me caso siempre y cuando no me saques de aquí

Two of them attended a French school that had a scheme where every family donates voluntarily a monthly amount until they stop working. The money accumulated is put in a retirement account, which serves to aid the actual people who needed the most. Recently, one of the interviewees became a widow and so was able to recuperate the money invested along her life and used it to have this privileged end of life experience at Residencial Las Quintas.

Gate to private road which leads to the Residencial las Quintas

This scheme works because a person in Mexico can’t rely 100% in the government’s medical care system it works mostly for the people who have had a stable working situation who ensured a government pension but people without public healthcare need to find alternative solutions for their retirement and they are very pricy. The most vulnerable are those without public healthcare and without resources.

It is unfair that end of life experience is determined by each person’s monetary circumstances.

What is a provocation or insight that might inspire others during this challenge?

Perceiving oneself as old makes you look and feel older. Using the appropriate terminology changes the target's perception of an experience. Eg: Residence versus Asylum. Women tend to outlive their partners and as long as they have people around to talk with they do not feel alone. Planning for retirement pays off. What else do people talk about when they talk about death and end of life phase?

Tell us about your work experience:

Creative strategist, have done design research & innovation projects for the healthcare sector, have taught Design Research, Branding and Service Design to both undergraduate & postgraduate students.

If you participated in an End of Life Storytelling Event, tell us which Chapter or city you came from:

Cuernavaca, México.


Marea Saldarriaga

1 comment

Join the conversation:

Photo of Joanna Spoth

What a powerful and personal post, Marea! Great insight into the care that's able to be provided for those in a certain income bracket. And great to get some first-person insights from this older population living in Mexico. I'm sure we'll draw upon this during our upcoming Ideas phase!