University of Sussex, United Kingdom
The literature on ageing commonly tends to associate ‘old age’ with ideas of decline, frailty and dependency. As a result, older people are often regarded as sedentary and immobile. International migration seems, however, to help put these ideas into perspective. This is for example the case of international labour migrants who face the dilemma of returning ‘back home’ in later-life. The proximity to retirement age emerges as an opportunity to a sometimes long-planned, long-delayed return, often prompted by idealised imaginaries of ‘home’ or the presence of older family members left behind. On the other hand, there is a life built in the host country where their children (and sometimes grandchildren) have put down their own roots. Combined, these factors add great complexity to the lives of later-in-life return migrants. Based on 30 in-depth life narrative interviews and a six-month ethnographic fieldwork in the Azores with later-in-life Azorean returnees (mostly from the USA and Canada), this paper aims to explore these migrants’ ageing experiences, integration paths and coping strategies upon return. In some cases return has represented self-realisation and the corollary of a hard working life abroad; in others, loneliness, absence of family and social isolation have led to narratives of disappointment and non-belonging. However, in most cases, and sometimes in light of major life events such as the death of a spouse or the birth of a grandchild, there seems to be an in-between situation marked by a permanent renegotiation of ‘here’ and ‘there’ and a re-hypothesising of later-in-life (im)mobility.