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Residential mobility of women in retirement: between constrained readjustment and new aspirations

Mathilde Bigo

Research Framework: The results presented in this article are the result of a PhD research carried out at Rennes 2 University and defended in 2015.
Objectives: This paper examines, from a gender perspective, the residential mobility of elderly women, differentiating the mobility taking place before the retirement with those occurring after.
Methodology: Based on a sample of 21 women aged 62-91, living in coastal communities in the Brittany region, analyses were carried out on life course transitions events to understand the causes associated with residential mobility: free time, widowhood, illness.
Results: For some, retirement is an opportunity to renegotiate the power relations within the couple, when marital life imposed spousal mobilities. For some women, living alone means residential mobility in retirement as a mobility that is free of wages and family constraints. However, residential mobility is not always chosen. On the contrary, it may be forced upon them due to a lack of financial resources during widowhood, the need to get closer to services, or by a necessary rearrangement of the interior architecture of housing.
Conclusions: The analysis of the residential mobility of women in retirement reveals that social sex relations are strong in the choice of residential choice and that the characteristics of the city, in addition to those of the seaside, are largely structural in the choice of residence.
Contribution: By crossing gender and age-related issues, this social geographical research focuses on how new living spaces, in old age, can become a resource or even offer the possibility of emancipation.