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“If You Have a Pain, Get on a Plane”: Qualitatively Exploring How Short-Term Canadian International Retirement Migrants Prepare To Manage Their Health While Abroad

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

Pickering, J., Crooks, V. A., Snyder, J., & Milner, T. (2021). “If you have a pain, get on a plane”: Qualitatively exploring how short-term Canadian international retirement migrants prepare to manage their health while abroad. Tropical Diseases, Travel Medicine and Vaccines, 7(1), 10.

Date created: 
DOI: 10.1186/s40794-021-00136-4
International retirement migration
United States
Travel health


Every year, tens of thousands of older Canadians travel abroad during the winter months to enjoy warmer destinations that offer social and recreational opportunities. How do these Canadians prepare to manage their health while abroad? In this analysis we explore this question by developing a typology of preparatory strategies.


Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 19 older Canadians living seasonally in Yuma, Arizona (United States). Interviews were transcribed verbatim and thematically analysed to form the basis of a typology of preparatory strategies.


Four distinct preparatory strategies form the typology that summarizes how Canadian international retirement migrants prepare to manage their health while abroad. First, some participants became thoroughly prepared by gathering information from multiple sources and undertaking specific preparatory activities (e.g., visiting a travel medicine clinic, purchasing travel health insurance, bringing prescription refills). Second, some participants were preparation-adverse and relied on their abilities to address health needs and crises in-the-moment. Third, some participants became well informed about things they could do in advance to protect their health while abroad (e.g., purchasing travel health insurance) but opted not to undertake preparatory actions. A final group of participants prepared haphazardly.


This typology can assist health care providers in international retirement migrant destinations to appreciate differences among this patient population that is often characterized as being relatively homogenous. More research is needed to determine if these preparatory strategies are common in other mobile populations and if they are found in other destinations popular with international retirement migrants.

Document type: 
Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR)