Ageing and Gerontology

We are the UK’s leading publisher of books on Ageing and Gerontology and our titles fill a clear gap in the current literature. The list interrogates the challenges of an ageing population, push forward knowledge and reframe perspectives.

Central to this are the international and comparative works in the Ageing in a Global Context series, published in association with the British Society of Gerontology, and the Longitudinal and Lifecourse Studies journal.

Ageing and Gerontology

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This chapter uses fieldwork data to discuss retirement migration in relation to the social precarity that can result from age-based discrimination. We show how the ageism in our interviewees’ home countries led them to feel excluded or to anticipate this, and how they found that they were valued in their new countries, rather than burdens. Avoiding ageism and social exclusion was not their primary motivation for migrating, but finding that they were not marginalised in their new countries based on their age emerged as an important aspect of their happiness. Further, the apparent absence of ageism mattered regardless of our respondents’ class. We begin the chapter with our respondents’ accounts of being considered burdens in their home countries, which they contrast to their perception of being valued as contributors in their host countries. We highlight the experiences of older women, who feel more visible and safer than they had felt at home. Then, we discuss the advantages retirement migrants have found in residing among age peers. We discuss the internalised ageism that many respondents demonstrate, which we take to suggest that their avoidance of social precarity is, at best, incomplete.

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This chapter uses collected data to discuss interlinkages between international retirement migration and economic precarity in later life resulting from disadvantages accumulated over the life course and intersecting systems of inequalities. We consider three components of retirement migrants’ living conditions: the welfare state policies that shape their lives and the provisions on which they rely; their present and past positions in the labour market; and their household composition. We perform our analysis upon data of both retirees who relocated before full retirement age and those who moved once they had reached this threshold. We consider the influence of specific global events, such as the recession of 2007–08, as well as the differences and similarities in how welfare states in home countries shaped retirees’ experiences of migration. Finally, we discuss some contexts in which economic precarity remains despite migration.

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After affordability, healthcare is most important factor that retirees consider when they think about whether and where to migrate. Often subsumed under the rubric of healthcare is the need for daily assistance that can occur in later life even among people with no immediate need of medical care. As is discussed in this chapter, retirement migrants from the Global North are positioned to benefit from wide access to high-quality healthcare services made more affordable to them than they might otherwise be by global divisions of wealth. This postcolonial relation to care persists even though most of these migrants do not recognise their privileges in this regard. They are more likely to attribute their access to high-quality care to cultural differences, that is, to a respect and love for older people that they believe is intrinsic to the cultures of their host nations. This cheaper and better treatment extends to the potential need for assistance in later life as well. Although health and assistance can be related, they do not need to be, and thus in this chapter, we distinguish between these two dimensions of precarity. Throughout, we also attend to the fact that underlying their concerns for both healthcare and assistance is the reality that these migrants are older people; their age matters.

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This chapter positions retirement migration within the larger context of international migration trends and outlines the theoretical framework that we use in our examination of retirement migration. It starts with describing the growing phenomenon of retirement migration from richer countries to places of the world where the costs of living are cheaper, as well as the diverse forms that such geographic movements take. We then introduce the literature on precarity, ageing and ageism on which the book draws. We focus on three forms of precarity: economic, social (and how this is shaped by ageism) and health (in terms of both assistance and care). The rest of the chapter gives an overview of the book’s content.

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Retirement migration is not only about geographical movement but also about people navigating between the policies of different states, such as those related to old age, public health insurance and residence or citizenship requirements. In countries of the Global North like the UK, Switzerland and the US, older people often rely on welfare state benefits for their economic security and their access to healthcare. In this context, the economic and health benefits that retirement migrants receive from their home countries, as well as whether they can access their state pensions and local healthcare systems in their host countries, influence their decisions about whether and where to migrate. In this chapter, we use literature on work, retirement and health policies in later life to explore the political-economic contexts shaping the precarity of older people in the UK, Switzerland and the US.

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This chapter illuminates the ways in which retirement migrants can be both precarious and privileged. Transnationalism is central to understanding the local and global structures of retirement migration, and it is also shaped by global inequalities. First, citizens of the Global North are not all equally able to live transnationally because they have uneven possibilities to benefit from their retirement pensions and health insurance in the country of migration. Second, North–South migrants make use of global power relations rooted in postcolonial structures to bolster their socio-economic status at the expense of the local population. We begin this chapter by showing how our interviewees’ citizenship statuses allow them to move with relative ease between their home and host countries, as well as elsewhere. We then discuss the role that low-cost means of transportation and communication play in retirement migrants’ ability to engage in transnationalism. We highlight how global inequalities enable them to achieve better socio-economic positions while residing in poorer regions of the world. Finally, we explore the tensions that emerge from the participants’ experiences of migration, which reveal how local and global power relations intertwine in these contexts.

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This chapter provides a deeper understanding of the social and economic characteristics of international retirement migration. It explores the diverse forms that retirement migration can take, including short-term and permanent versions, and scholars’ increased interest in these trends since the early 1980s. We describe the themes that appear the most in the literature on international retirement migration, such as lifestyle factors, ease of travel, transnational family ties and the globalisation of the health, housing and leisure markets targeting retirees in richer countries. We then develop interlinkages between retirement migration and precarity, and show how some scholars have explored this aspect since the early 2000s. Finally, we address ageism and how this shapes retirees’ living conditions in the Global North and, possibly, in international retirement migration contexts. We end the chapter by presenting our study and the sample, and briefly describing the places where we conducted the interviews in Spain, Costa Rica and Mexico.

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The last few decades have seen an increase in the migration of ageing people from richer Northern and Western countries to poorer Southern and Eastern countries.

This book seeks to understand the motivation behind retirement migration and how precarity in later life contributes to this trend.

Drawing on accounts of retirees from different nations, the book examines how welfare policies in their home country versus their country of migration shape their experiences of migration.

It shows how ageism impacts social precarity across different social classes, and across economic, social and health dimensions. It also evaluates how local and global systems of inequalities influence retirement migrants’ experience, providing both opportunities and constraints that differ across countries.

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This chapter returns to the research issues that frame the book and provides a summary of our findings. We highlight the two main observations on which our study drew, namely, the fact that retirement migration is a growing phenomenon and that although precarity increasingly affects older people’s lives, existing literature on retirement migration has not focused on this. The chapter underscores the links in this study between retirement migration and economic insecurity, and how ageism shapes this. In addition, we highlight the role of ageism in the risk of social exclusion that older people face and how retirement migrants find the social context in their new country to be more inclusive of older people that in their home states. The chapter returns to the findings regarding the health and assistance precarity of retirement migrants, as well as how welfare states in the home and host countries shape experiences of migration, and the kinds of security that they seek. The chapter ends with a discussion of the dynamic nature of precarity and the implications of this observation for the future.

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This chapter explores the unpaid work of family members with elderly relatives in the lead-up to nursing home care in two jurisdictions: Ontario, Canada, and Sweden. Unpaid work includes providing care, as well as the navigation and the advocacy work required to seek, apply for and enter nursing home care. Although Sweden has a universal social democratic approach, and Canada a selective liberal approach, both countries have seen rationing in long-term care funding and reduced access to nursing homes. In both jurisdictions, families take on extensive unpaid work and experience increasing stress leading up to nursing home admission. In Canada, after admission, families often experience a sense of guilt and continue their unpaid work in an attempt to fill care gaps. This contrasts to Sweden, where families express relief, as safety and continuity of care increase, enabling them to be visitors rather than care providers, which may reflect higher staffing levels.

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