Travel, Cultural Difference and Active Aging in Transnational Perspective: North American Retirees in Ecuador

Authors: Matthew Hayes*,
Topics: Cultural Geography, Population Geography
Keywords: Active Aging, Lifestyle Migration, Transnationalism, Ecuador
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/6/2019
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: Roosevelt 7, Marriott, Exhibition Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded



This paper draws on interviews and ethnographic observation conducted with North American lifestyle migrants in Cuenca, Ecuador over the period 2011-2016. It explores active aging ideals expressed through transnational travel, and desire to experience life in a different culture. Lifestyle migrants in Ecuador reflect dominant North American cultural ideals of aging, but often say they could not afford to continue forms of social consumption and travel without continuing to work in the US or Canada. They often refer to themselves as 'economic refugees' - an exaggeration that speaks to a shift in the economic basis underpinning cultural ideals of the third age in North America. Their economic and care migrations enable them to pursue culturally significant aging ideals, but in material conditions inherited from an unequal and colonial global economy. These inequalities shape North American experiences of aging, and influence how they incorporate into receiving communities. Both men and women seek new, more ‘expansive’ horizons in Ecuador as a way of ‘staying young,’ and avoiding an aging process in North American societies that devalue aging bodies and the experience and expertise of older workers. North American women in the third age especially narrate their relocations as 'adventurous' and 'risk-taking', emphasizing material conditions of precarity above global social positions of relative affluence and privilege. This latter enable North Americans in the third age to maintain a sense of being useful or helpful, and of occupying positions of patronage relative the receiving, Ecuadorian community.

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