MA: Can you tell us about how you first came to study ageing and mobilities?
AL: I came to ageing studies rather by chance. Or, we can say, fieldwork taught me what is important. I carried out my PhD fieldwork on the island of Guernsey. I was initially focusing on the dynamics of a recent emigrant community from Latvia and temporalities of mobilities. But I could not avoid the fact that many of my participants were not young. Indeed, many were in their mid-age and ageing. Moreover, I noticed how ageing matters also for younger participants. Directly or indirectly, most of my younger research participants placed their mobility stories in relation to the ageing of their relatives back in Latvia.
MA: What are your thoughts on “ageing across borders” in the context of your work and experience?
AL: The topic of “ageing across borders” is especially close to my heart. Why? Because it is a real eye-opener. Women, who were in their 40s and 50s, told me that they felt old in Latvia and they were perceived as old: by their employers, when reading female magazines, in everyday encounters in shops, and even by their acquaintances and family members. But when they crossed the borders, they realised – with their own bodies and minds – that ageing is place and culture specific. Ageing is socially constructed. As we live longer and will work longer, it is very important to understand this phenomenon and fight ageism in everyday life. Methodologically, I find it very productive to compare life stories among ageing migrants and those who stayed put.
MA: Some of your research has been about how transformations in pension and welfare systems impact on the lives of Latvian migrants. What do these transformations tell us about the broader links between ageing, citizenship and political agency?
AL: Welfare systems, arguably are important throughout the lifecourse, but the dynamics are different. Pensions are a crucial achievement of welfare thinking and social security history since Otto von Bismarck. Pensions are also crucial in the current, sharply individualised world, at least in the Global North. However, I dare to say that the complexity of the ageing (and ageism), inequalities and migration nexus expand this individual thinking more broadly. When we have financial independence, it is usually easier to improve other areas in life as well. Through my research I saw how ‘uncaring’, so to speak, post-socialist transitions have been towards ageing people and social security in general. Even in the UK (capitalistic, neoliberal economic system), ageing migrants and people in general are cared for much more than back in post-socialist Latvia and similar countries. Hence for many ageing and still-working migrants, social and economic citizenship in terms of rights and responsibilities, and inclusion, are stronger abroad than in the home country. In the meantime, people harbour ideas of return when they retire as most want to live in Latvia. Existing inequalities in social and economic inclusion will pose further questions on the possibilities and constraints to express the political agency of ageing migrants and locals alike. This is a question which, I think, will be pertinent for many post-socialist countries not only in Europe but globally.
MA: Your work has examined the mobilities of people at different points in the lifecourse, from youth to older populations. Can you reflect on what this intergenerational perspective can offer researchers in the field of migration and ageing?
AL: Intergenerational perspectives still need to be developed further in ageing and mobility studies. Among many important issues, there is a need to develop better intergenerational understanding during the ongoing rapid changes in the labour market. Artificial intelligence, robotization and other trends intersect with the increased working age and longevity. These realities will invite us to think how we can live together in diversity – from different backgrounds, ethnicities, with diverse mobility experiences and from different generations. Such research can take a very practical approach too, and have a potentially high impact for a fast-changing society.
MA: We see a growing interest in academia and the area of policy research to understand the interconnections of ageing and migration, particularly in relation to care. From your expertise, what other key issues and concepts do you think can be further developed within and beyond this intersecting field?
AL: Care is such a huge and diverse topic. It will always accompany ageing and migration research in its incredible complexity and impact on human lives. In the meantime, I think that resilience can be researched more critically and in more depth. Economic, political, social, health, values, loss and profound changes, and spiritual needs – all these issues in the context of migration are in need of good quality research. Also, we need to pay attention to inequalities among ageing migrants. Most ageing people will live in low- and medium-income countries in next few decades. Most of these countries are also source countries of migrants. Either migrants themselves will age or younger generations will leave - the ageing-migration nexus will impact these regions profoundly. So, ageing research should be on a global agenda. Last but not least, intimacy and relationships seem to be very private realms. But as we have been advised by feminist researchers: the personal is political. People develop close friendships, support networks, neighbouring help and multitude of other relationships that cross borders. Some of these relationships are not acknowledged legally – who helped and supported each other during fragile years and how. Or, they seem to be too complicated in cross-border contexts.
Recent publications on ageing and mobilities:
Lulle, A. (2019) Ageing (im)mobilities: the lives of Latvian women who emigrated and those who stayed put, Gender, Place and Culture 25 (8): 1193-1208 https://doi.org/10.1080/0966369X.2018.1435512
Lulle, A. (2018) Relational ageing: on intra-gender and generational dynamism amongst ageing Latvian women, Area 50 (4): 452-458 DOI: 10.1111/area.12427
King, R. and Lulle, A. (2017) Grandmothers migrating, working and caring: Latvian women between survival and self-realisation, Population Horizons, 13(2): 1-11
King, R., Lulle, A., Sampaio, D., and Vullnetari, J. (2016) Unpacking the ageing–migration nexus and challenging the vulnerability trope, Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, 43(2): 1-22
Lulle, A. and King, R. (2016) Ageing well: the time-spaces of possibility for older female Latvian migrants in the UK, Social and Cultural Geography, 17(3): 444-462
Lulle, A. and King, R. (2016) Ageing, gender and labour migration, New York: Palgrave Pivot