Mobility and Older People’s Quality of Life

Studies of migration tend to feature the more visible and radical forms, like retirement to Spain or Costa Rica, or the return from London or New York to Jamaica, when most migrations by older people are local housing adjustments – like those by adults of all ages. Many local moves make an important contribution to maintaining older people's independence and raising their quality of life. With more than one fifth of the population of most developed countries now aged 60 or more (and many in their 50s having retired), and average life expectancy close to 80 years of age, clearly 'old age' can extend for decades and be a substantial fraction of a person's life. It is a life course stage of many changes. Early in retirement, some move to more attractive environments, where they can pursue nonwork interests, and others move to smaller homes or to live nearer their children and grandchildren. At older ages, many experience losses in health, vigor, partners, and income, and become no longer able to afford or drive a car, to climb stairs, to maintain a large garden or mow the smallest lawn, and to walk to and from shops. Several of these changes seriously impair an older person's or a couple's quality of life, but can be ameliorated by a move to a more con venient home or location. One can say that impaired personal mobility encourages residential mobility. Some move to housing schemes designed for older people, for the surveillance or support they provide, or to enjoy more personal security. Population geographers have made substantial contributions to understanding the role of migration in older people's lives, but the work has been selective, and local moves and housing adjustments have been neglected. There is immense scope for more collaboration between geographers and gerontologists in understanding the role of residential mobility in older people's lives.