The circle of migration: Attachment to place in aging

Kevin McHugh, Robert C. Mings

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

144 Scopus citations


Despite a substantial literature in elderly migration, little is known about the experience of mobility and place in aging. In this paper we explore the meaning of home, place, and migration among elderly seasonal migrants who circulate between northern (summer) and Sunbelt (winter) residences. The central focus is on evolving attachments and relationships with place over the life course. We conceptualize the circle of migration to and from home places in terms of three phases: separation, experience, and return. These phases illuminate universal themes i1n attachment to place, including the dialectic of home and journey, expressions of autonomy and identity in aging, sense of belonging through place-making and community formation, and reminiscence centered on home places. We glean three strikingly different life-course trajectories in the migrations and place attachments among elderly seasonal migrants: still rooted in home place (circular), suspended between dual homes (pendular), and footloose (linear). Processes in reach, drift, and break from home over the life course are critical in defining space-time paths in aging. This is a promising avenue of research because mobility and migration histories are inextricably bound with evolving place attachments. The space-time paths of large cohorts of baby boomers will shape the geography of aging in the twenty-first century.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)530-550
Number of pages21
JournalAnnals of the Association of American Geographers
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1996


  • Aging
  • Home and journey
  • Life-course trajectories
  • Place attachment
  • Seasonal migration

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Earth-Surface Processes


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