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Relocating Care within Europe: Moving the elderly to places where care is more affordable

Project description

Shedding light on the transnationalisation of elderly care

Rising costs of long-term care in retirement centres means increasing numbers of elderly Europeans are forced to look for cheaper alternatives. For instance, elderly in Germany and Austria are relocating to other countries, mainly in central and eastern Europe (such as Poland and Hungary), where care is more affordable. This phenomenon is sometimes referred to as ‘grandmother deportation’ or ‘geriatric colonialism’. The EU-funded ReloCare project will study the impact of this care relocation on the places involved. Alongside in-depth ethnographic studies of daily life in these care homes, the project will also investigate the nexus between care entrepreneurs and state insurances, and will also research into the histories of places and regional migration.


Within care studies, the transnationalization of care has been mainly understood as drawing on (female) migrant care workers and resulting in a ‘care gap’ in the places such workers leave behind. This project looks at the reverse phenomenon: care relocation, in which the ageing body is relocated to places where care is more affordable. This hotly contested trend, described as ‘grandmother deportation’ or ‘geriatric colonialism’, can be seen as an extreme example of the marketization of care, and entangling welfare states as entitlements are carried across national borders within Europe.
This multi-sited anthropological study will take as case studies care homes in Central Eastern Europe (Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Hungary) that recruit patients from Austria and Germany, and offer care at roughly one-third of the cost of similar institutions in the home countries. What does care relocation do to the people and places involved? Most of these care homes are located in regions characterized by a long German and Habsburg-Hungarian history, adding historical complexity to the story. Some serve only German-speaking patients, others serve local, wealthier elderly people as well. They are run by former migrant care workers and by international companies, bringing labour migration and real estate investment into the picture.
ReloCare breaks new ground by encompassing all of these aspects in one study. Alongside in-depth ethnographic studies of daily life in these care homes, the researchers will investigate the nexus of care entrepreneurs and state insurances, and the histories of places and regional migration, providing an understanding of these new transnational entanglements of welfare states. In perceiving care relocation as both part of future making and a response to the privatization of care landscapes in the region, it asks what it means to become old and in need of care in an increasingly intertwined Europe.

Host institution

Net EU contribution
€ 1 499 978,00
1012WX Amsterdam

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West-Nederland Noord-Holland Groot-Amsterdam
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Total cost
€ 1 499 978,00

Beneficiaries (1)