International Retirement Migration

The first international retirement flow to attract the attention of American researchers was of Canadians to Florida, and the first to attract the attention of European population geographers was the settlement of northern European retirees in various regions of southern Europe. The latter moves began to increase rapidly during the 1960s for a host of reasons: the new democratic regimes in Spain, Portugal, and Greece and the admission of these countries to the European Union, the growth of the mass 'package' holiday trade and its associated airports and modern 'infrastructure' facilities, and the spread of occupational pensions, early retirement and home ownership in the Northern countries (which enabled more people to purchase property abroad). Ever since, the proliferating studies have made clear that there is no clear break between seasonal, temporary, and permanent moves, or between 'residential tourism' and migration.

A warm climate is the main attraction, and most 'migration units' are couples aged in their late 50 s and early 60 s. Some move to the popular holiday islands or 'costas' and their hinterlands, as particularly in Spain; others disperse across rural areas of high landscape value, as particularly in the south of France and in Tuscany and Umbria in Italy. Many of these retirement migrants are relatively affluent – they epitomize the latest cohort of healthier and more active older people, commonly (if not always accurately) called the 'baby boomers', which some say are less family oriented and more concerned with 'quality of life' than their predecessors. The cultural, psychosocial, and behavioral transformations involved in retiring abroad are beginning to be documented. Like all international migrants, by moving to countries with different languages, customs, institutions, and social welfare and healthcare policies they are taking risks. One reason for giving close attention to their situation is that little is yet known about how the decrements of old age – in vigor, health, income, and social networks – and its diseases and disorders shape people's household situations and migration decisions. Studies of the phenomenon are rapidly diversifying and there are now impressive contributions from many European countries.