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Keywords:

  • ALBANIA;
  • OLDER PEOPLE;
  • MIGRATION;
  • CARE DRAIN;
  • TRANSNATIONAL CARE

Abstract

Older people have been the main social casualties of the collapse of the Albanian communist system and the ensuing mass emigration of younger generations since 1990. Some have had to forage for survival on a near-starvation diet, making broth from grass and weeds. For others, remittances from emigrant children ensure adequate material well-being, but a loss of locally-based trans-generational care and of intimate family relations occurs. Rates of emigration have been highest in the southern uplands, where our fieldwork took place. Migration has been mainly to Greece, but also to Italy and elsewhere. Interviews with elderly ‘residual households’ - single people and couples - reveal stories of loneliness and abandonment; cross-generational rupture of hitherto tight family structures is seen as emotionally painful because of the impossibility of enjoying mutual benefits of care sustained by geographical proximity. Profoundly upsetting is the denial of the practice of grand-parenting, which the older generation see as their raison d'être. Cost of travel, visa regimes and emigrants’ irregular status conspire to prevent international visits. Finally, we examine various strategies of overcoming the ‘care drain’ produced by this situation, one of which is for older people to try to join their migrant children and grandchildren abroad.