Retirement Migration: A Way to Evade Social Exclusion?
In the Global North, age intersect with class such that those of higher classes might be able to stave off the designation of “old” longer than members of lower classes. While members of higher classes might be able to engage in high levels of consumption that mark them as privileged members of society, old people from the middle and low class are generally seen as a burden for society because of their presumed dependence on social policies. Such ageist representations are widespread and partly responsible for the exclusion old people experience.
At the same time, increasing numbers of retirees are migrating to Southern countries. While such migration may constitute a search for a better life, it may also be a way for middle and lower class members to avoid a loss of social status, especially for non-wealthy retirees.
In this paper, our aim is to contribute to a better understanding of why retirees migrate to Southern countries and to assess the extent to which it may constitute a way for some of them to challenge their social exclusion. To do so, we use qualitative interviews that were conducted in Spain among retirement migrants coming from diverse European countries, and who have mid-range or low incomes. An in-depth analysis of their discourses about their lives in Spain and the reasons why they left their previous country reveals that they feel that they occupy a social place in Spain that they would not have if they had stayed in their home country. For them, the negative representations of aged people that exist in their previous locations marginalized them. By contrast, in Spain, they perceive themselves to be valuable, especially because of the economic contribution that they bring to the region where they live.