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Study of International Retirement Migration from North America to Colonial Cities in Latin America

International retirement migration is a growing phenomenon that is expected to accelerate with the aging of the baby boomer generation. In the Western hemisphere, migrants particularly favor medium-sized historic, picturesque colonial cities in Latin America. Their impact on these settings is large and complex but has received little systematic study. This phenomenon can stimulate economic development, create new jobs and increase the income of national and local governments in the receiving. On the other hand, social and cultural problems have the potential to arise. Because of this, colonial cities that want to attract American retirees must plan on both how to attract them and how to guide the immigration.

With funding from the National Geographic Society (NGS), the Program on Aging, Disability, and Long-Term Care at the Sheps Center and the UNC Department of Family Medicine are studying these issues in multiple colonial cities in Latin America. Under the direction of Dr. Philip Sloane, the Elizabeth and Oscar Goodwin Distinguished Professor of Family Medicine and Geriatrics, the research team consists of professors from the university, advanced bilingual students, and professional collaborators in each country.  The research has 4 goals: (1) to investigate and understand the impacts of the migration of retired foreigners on colonial cities, (2) to investigate and understand the actions and opinions of retired foreigners who live in colonial cities, (3) to understand the role of local and national government, and (4) to provide recommendations on how city, national and local governments can take advantage of this phenomenon in ways that support the growth of economy, the conservation of local culture, as well as minimizing any potential negative impact and maximizing the quality of life for all.

The research design focuses to a large extent on interviewing locals in each community to obtain their observations and opinions. To learn more about the retired immigrants, the project using online questionnaires.  Additionally, they are obtaining statistics and creating maps to better understand the economy and the profile of the cities. All data are confidential, following the rules for the protection of the rights of people involved in the study. The investigators are committed to sharing the results of the research with all participants, and survey and interview respondents can check a box to be put on a list to receive the project’s final report.

Research team at the Puente de Centenario, Cuenca, Ecuador. Left to right: Dr. Philip Sloane, Brenna McColl, Erika Munshi, Luisa Cesar, and Karla Jimenez.