Opportunities and Challenges in Providing Health Care for International Retirement Migrants: A Qualitative Case Study of Canadians Travelling To Yuma, Arizona

Peer reviewed: 
Yes, item is peer reviewed.
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Final version published as: 

Pickering, J., Crooks, V.A., Snyder, J. et al. Opportunities and challenges in providing health care for International Retirement Migrants: a qualitative case study of Canadians travelling to Yuma, Arizona. Trop Dis Travel Med Vaccines 6, 9 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1186/s40794-020-00110-6.

Date created: 
DOI: 10.1186/s40794-020-00110-6
International retirement migration
United States
Health care


Increasing numbers of older individuals opt to spend extended time abroad each year for lifestyle, health, and financial reasons. This practice is known as international retirement migration, and it is particularly popular among retirees in Global North countries such as Canada. Despite the popularity of international retirement migration, very little is known about how and why health care is accessed while abroad, nor the opportunities and challenges posed for destination hospitals. In this article we focus on addressing the latter knowledge gap.


This qualitative case study is focused on the only hospital in Yuma, Arizona – a popular destination for Canadian retirement migrants in the United States. We conducted focus groups with workers at this hospital to explore their experiences of treating this transnational patient group. Twenty-seven people participated in three, 90-min focus groups: twelve nurses, six physicians, and nine administrators. Thematic analysis of the focus group transcripts was conducted using a triangulated approach.


Participants identified three care environments: practice, transnational, and community. Each environment presents specific opportunities and challenges pertaining to treating Canadian retirement migrants. Important opportunities include the creation of a strong and diverse seasonal workforce in the hospital, new transnational paths of communication and information sharing for physicians and health administrators, and informal care networks that support formal health care services within and beyond the hospital. These opportunities are balanced out by billing, practical, administrative, and lifestyle-related challenges which add complexity to treating this group of transnational patients.


Canadians represent a significant group of patients treated in Yuma, Arizona. This is contrary to long-standing, existing research that depicts older Canadians as being reluctant to access care while in the United States. Significant overlaps exist between the opportunities and challenges in the practice, transnational and community environments. More research is needed to better understand if these findings are similar to other destinations popular with Canadian international retirement migrants or if they are unique to Yuma, Arizona.

Document type: 
Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR)