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Accepted Paper:

"The Strollers Are Rolling, We Must Keep Moving": Caregiving, Mobility, and Elderhood of China's Migrant Grandparents  
Min Zhang (Minzu University of China)

Paper short abstract:

In China, millions of older adults travel long distances to and temporarily sojourn in cities to provide care for grandchildren. This study uses daily routine as a methodological tool to examine how these migrant grandparents construct good ageing through grandchild care in the context of mobility.

Paper long abstract:

Recent years have witnessed a worldwide increase in the prevalence of grandparents' participation in grandchild care. In China, millions of older adults travel long distances to and temporarily sojourn in major cities to provide care for grandchildren. Widely referred to as "migrant grandparents" or "floating elderly," the size of this demographic segment has risen sharply amidst China's rapidly population aging and socioeconomic and cultural transformations. As one of the first academic attempts to systematically study this group, this study explores how grandchild care and urban sojourning complicate grandparent caregivers' experiences of aging. Specifically, drawing on anthropological studies of daily routine, this article ethnographically examines how migrant grandparents interpret the tension and difficulties in establishing and maintaining their daily routines related to grandchild care over the course of urban sojourning. Based on fieldwork on migrant grandparents in Shenzhen, China's city of immigrants, this study shows that migrant grandparents construct good aging through grandchild care. The process of establishing new routines for attending to the needs of their adult children and grandchildren provides migrant grandparents with meaningful opportunities to construe themselves as socially and morally valuable persons in old age. On the other hand, the tension in maintaining their daily routine suggests that their interpretation highly depends on the young generation and the social network and is hence experiencing constant challenges. Their efforts in constructing a sense of good aging through caregiving face an uncertain future in light of the nature of urban sojourning and the transitional stage of their lives.

Panel P125
Horizons of ageing in and beyond Europe: later life experiences in a (im)mobile world [Age and Generations Network]