Migration and development: The overlooked roles of older people and ageing

Tanja Bastia, Aija Lulle, Russell King

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Discussions on migration and development geography have both suffered from ‘ageism’: an overwhelming preoccupation with children and the young in the latter and widespread assumptions that migrants are generally young adults, who only leave behind children in the former. It is unsurprising, then, that migration-development debates have also been biased in favour of the young. In this paper we consider the place of older people and of ageing as a process in migration and development debates. We argue that older people, thus far overlooked, are also involved in migration and development, in heterogeneous ways and in different geographical contexts. While doing this, we challenge the conventional view of older migrants as inactive and vulnerable and of older people as merely recipients of development interventions. We argue that experiences of ageing and global inequalities are increasingly entwined and demonstrate this through five dimensions of migration and development debates: remittances, diasporas, return migration, international retirement migration, and intergenerational care. Older people and ageing as a process are central to each one of these dimensions, and it is imperative to pave further research of heterogeneity of ageing within contexts of global inequality. (189 words).

Original languageEnglish
Article number18
Pages (from-to)1009-1027
Number of pages19
JournalProgress in Human Geography
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2022


  • ageing
  • development geography
  • intergenerational care
  • migration
  • remittances
  • return


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