Dr Paul Green2
2University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia
Studies of international retirement migration (IRM) often highlight the role of cross-border mobility in facilitating third age experiences of successful, active and DIY aging. Here, I examine how later-life foreigners living in Ubud, Bali, think about and strategise life course transitions towards a fourth age. Focusing on third to fourth age transitions, I suggest, reveals ways in which historically and biographically constituted understandings of personhood are nourished in the social, cultural and economic context of specific retirement destinations in Asia. In this, we see how later-life foreigners develop individualised life projects in Bali, through virtues of geoarbitrage and privileged access to material and human resources. Drawing on an illustrative ethnographic example I highlight the ways in which such resources both support and compromise attempts by foreign residents to gain personal yet collaborative control over their future self’s engagement with care and support in later life. On one hand, the availability of local drivers, domestic servants and informal care workers encourages what I term as a bespoke fantasy of independence that extends over time into an everyday world of physical immobility, chronic health concerns and limited financial resources. At the same time, this individualised fantasy of personhood feeds into yet complicates a desire to find a sense of security and belonging in entrepreneurial imaginings of dependent sociality and small-scale retirement spaces. The elusive search for Project Marigold, I argue, reveals the creative and contradictory limitations of bespoke individualism in later life, with some residents left to fear and contemplate a potential return one day to institutionalised care in their homelands.
Paul Green is a social anthropologist in the School of Social and Political Sciences at the University of Melbourne. He is involved in two long-term ethnographic projects, where he focuses on the life experiences of international retirees and digital nomads, respectively, based in or moving through Southeast Asia.