Six years ago the couple, originally from Bonita Springs, Florida, moved to this Central American country that thousands of retired foreigners, mainly Americans, have chosen as the place where they can spend the rest of their lives as peacefully as possible.
"We were looking for an easier and cheaper life," said the 61-year old McKee as she sipped a glass of red wine with Eric on their front porch on a crisp evening in Boquete, taking in the view of the mountains and the silhouette of the dormant Barú Volcano in the distance.
Panama has many draws: the climate that varies from tropical in the jungle to temperate in the valleys, the ocean, a relatively cheap cost of living, secure surroundings, good roads and flight network, and even a healthy diet with organically grown vegetables are a few of the reasons that attracted thousands of North American retirees to this nation of 3.5 million habitants in the last decade.
An international journal that for 30 years has published a ranking of the top ten havens for retirees in the world selected Panama as the second most comfortable place for retirement, second only to Ecuador. Four other Latin American countries made the list: Mexico in fourth place, Costa Rica in fifth, Uruguay sixth, and Colombia in seventh. Spain is number eight on the ranking and Malaysia is third.
The global index takes into account such criteria as the cost of living, road infrastructure, access to health services, climate, security, and special benefits.
Panama has recently implemented a number of immigration and customs benefits policies to attract retirees from abroad. It offers permanent residence to foreigners who receive over $1,000 a month in a life-long pension fund.
In the last couple years Panama has had one of the highest rates of economic growth in Latin America, thanks to strong development in the construction industry of skyscrapers and real estate projects, as well as road and transport infrastructure. Many of the residents in these tall buildings are foreigners, but not all are necessarily retired or North Americans, as expats have also installed from Venezuela, Colombia, and other countries.
Compared with its Caribbean neighbors, Panama is in the advantageous position of suffering very little or not at all from the devastation of hurricanes, and this factor is taken into account by foreigners like McKee and Carlson when they are looking to relocate.
About 20,000 people live in Boquete, located in a valley surrounded by hills planted in the country's most famous coffee bushes. It thrives in the area's cool climate that is marked by a constant fine drizzle, although the sun often comes out. In the morning hours you can see wisps of fog embracing the green mountains, which turn a hue of blue at dusk.
Municipal authorities in Boquete estimate that presently around 3,000 retirees are living in the district, mostly Americans. There are numerous activities available in Boquete, from trekking or hiking in the mountains to bird watching and photography.
"Everything is possible in Panama,'' underscores Linda.