4. Cultural landscapes
Those I met and talked with also told me that their interest in return migration was something that had significantly increased following retirement, when they had more time to reflect on their priorities in their third age and beyond. In this respect, people spoke of their identity with, and yearning for, their native place, referring to the culture, history or landscapes that they missed:
I think the countryside draws you. The history of the country, the architecture.
We belong to the homeland, we are part of it. I feel as though the land speaks to me there.
During my interviews I realised that there were significant emotional and practical consequences of considering return migration post retirement. A number of people indicated that contemplating the possibility of return migration made them feel increasingly homesick, others were puzzled by their conflicting feelings as they were pulled in both directions, and a few had arguments with their spouse or children about their desire to return migrate. Some had the resources to visit the UK to try it out and find out more about the reality of daily life, such as paying their way in a country that had changed much in their absence. Those that did return admitted it had not been straightforward, that they had, initially at least, found it emotionally difficult to find their place amongst a family network that had got used to their absence.
In fact, preparation for possible return migration seems essential to its success. This was borne out not only from my research but also that of others working in this field across the world. These researchers have contributed chapters to a book I have edited, which, in addition to my research, documents the return migration experiences and accounts of retirees who emigrated from Chile to Sweden, India to England, the Caribbean to the USA, Estonia to Australia, Greece to Denmark, as well as Italy and Spain to Switzerland. As a whole, this collection brings to life the fact that, despite the complex issues involved, increasing numbers of retirees are thinking about or planning to return to their country of origin, often after many years living and working abroad.
It seems important, therefore, that as well as retirees thinking about the realities of possible return migration, so too should organisations and public bodies with an interest in the well being of retirees. These organisations may consider how they can best provide useful information and support on matters such as housing, pensions and social security provision; access to health and social care systems, and matters related to utilities, banking and insurance.