SCIENTIA GEOGRAPHICA SINICA ›› 2023, Vol. 43 ›› Issue (8): 1433-1441.doi: 10.13249/j.cnki.sgs.2023.08.012

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Home at a distance: Making home for elderly lifestyle migrants

Chen Jingfu1(), Wang Bingyu2,*()   

  1. 1. School of Tourism Management, Sun Yat-sen University, Zhuhai 519082, Guangdong, China
    2. Department of Sociology, Zhou Enlai School of Government, Nankai University, Tianjin 300350, China
  • Received:2022-01-13 Revised:2022-04-17 Online:2023-08-20 Published:2023-08-30
  • Contact: Wang Bingyu;
  • Supported by:
    National Natural Science Foundation of China(41901165)


Home is an important dimension to understand elderly lifestyle migration and plays a crucial role in shaping the migrants' quality of life and happiness. This paper draws on the study of the seasonal lifestyle migration of the Houniao (also call 'snowbirds' who are mostly retirees from northern China) between Sanya, a tropical city in southern China, and northeastern Chinese provinces. Research data was derived from ethnographical field work in Sanya and mainly generated from interviews, participant observation and secondary data collection. Specifically, this paper explores the metaphors of home from three aspects: homely city (place-based home), extended home (collective home) and elders' home (private home). First, in Sanya, the Houniao simultaneously have senses of belonging and estrangement. Treated as outsiders by the locals, they think highly of Sanya's natural environments but keep distance from local socio-cultures. Through everyday leisure, the Houniao negotiate their ambivalent feelings of home in the tropical city. Second, extended home based on intergenerational-ties is produced at the trans-local scale and continues to influence the Houniao's daily practices and experiences in the destination place. Economic and emotional supports from the offspring and their opinions exert great impacts on the elderly migrants' motivations for seasonal migration and their post-migration lives. Third, the Houniao’s sense of home is also enormously shaped by the elderly couple's practices of home-making which are influenced by multiple issues, including living conditions, neighborhood relations, and spousal care. This paper centralises the analysis of home in lifestyle migration and foregrounds a comprehensive view of elderly migrants' diverse and complex feelings of home in receiving places. It also enriches our understanding of older people's living experiences in health-oriented mobilities and ageing practices in other places in contemporary China.

Key words: lifestyle migration, home, ageing in other places, elderly life, sense of place

CLC Number: 

  • K901.6