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31 December 2009

Eldery Migrants in Europe: an overview of trends, policies and practices

Demographic ageing and immigration have been dominant processes in sociodemographic change for at least the last half century in Europe. Both the processes impacted on the age and ethnic composition of national population and thus strongly influenced the political agenda of several European countries in different socioeconomic areas. These processes both underline wider socio-economic trends concerning changes in population as well as changes in habits of the very same increasingly diverse population. Low fertility is a good example in this respect together with the ongoing changes in patterns and residential characteristics of the immigrant population in Europe.

Ageing and international migration are, in wider terms, both outcomes of economic growth and societal modernization processes which influence at various degree the population at large, while their factual interrelation is raising increasing attention of national governments as well as international organizations. These social processes bring forward several implications: (1) the number of older people who have been international migrants and have cultural differences from the host population have grown and will undoubtedly increase during the coming decades; and (2) the case for a more sympathetic and proactive response to the problems and structured disadvantages of older people migrants is becoming more compelling (Warnes et al., 2004).
The pace of policies, however, does not still follow suit the social changes which are taking place on the ground mainly because of the perceived limited dimension of the ageing of immigrant population, the tendency to minimize it, but also the small experience in facing its structural dimension and thus to set up adequate policies.
Elderly migrants include some of the most disadvantaged and others who are the most affluent and accomplished because of their active and innovative approaches to later life. Data about the different migrant groups is scarce in all European countries since the focus of public policies has been predominantly on young migrants as workers, refugees and asylum seekers (Warnes et al., 2004). In addition, undertaking comparative work across the immigrant and ethnic minority populations of Europe is fraught with definitional and practical difficulties concerning head-counts and structures of the immigrant or foreigner populations of European states. For instance, whereas some destination countries (such as Switzerland and Germany) meticulously recorded migratory events (age, sex ratios of the migrants at the time of entry), many other did not do so (White, 2006).
Purpose of this report is to shed a preliminary light on elderly migrants and to analyze the available policy solutions and NGOs practices adopted in a sample of European countries. These policy and practices will then be compared and the resulting policy symmetries/asymmetries will be measured to the needs of the target group of elderly migrants. At last, the proposition of selected recommendations will complete the analysis.
Our attention will focus on ‘elderly migrants’ who have grown old in their host countries and those who are already elderly when they emigrate to rejoin their family or return to their country of origin. Elderly migrants forced to emigrate or displaced for humanitarian reasons as well as those with immigrant background (second and third generation) will also be taken into consideration (COE, 2008). Vulnerability of this elderly category of migrant people is the common dimension for investigation.
The lack of information concerning this growing elderly sample calls inevitably for further empirical research. This tendency is reflected by the methodology of this article which gives notice of the available research works through an extensive literature review, collection of best practices and, where possible, contacts with key-informants.

Source: Ruspini, P. (2009). Elderly Migrants in Europe: an overview of trends, policies and practices. Suiça: University of Lugano (USI). Pp. 4-5.

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Paolo Ruspini, University of Lugano (USI), Switzerland
Geographic area
EU Wide
Contributor type
Academics and experts
Original source
Posted by
Sandra Silva
Country Coordinator

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