Universiteit Leiden

nl en


Ageing Abroad: The Ethics of “Granny Export”

Tuesday 11 December 2018
Free entry, no registration required.
Public Ethics Talks
Turfmarkt 99
2511 DP The Hague
Spanish Steps


The costs of elderly care are spiraling in many liberal democracies due to their rapidly ageing populations. Not only do we live longer, there are fewer young people to take care of us as we age. Confronted with this demographical challenge, normative theorists have turned to the question of how states can help meet the physical, social and emotional needs of older citizen- and non-citizen residents when there are fewer resources to do so. However, many options that have been considered (e.g. issuing work visas to foreign care workers, incentivising family members to provide informal care, investing in robot carers and companions) exhibit what might be called a ‘statist’ bias. They assume that the needs of older individuals are to be met within their current country of residence.

Yet as the German experience shows, there is an alternative: Sending older individuals to care homes abroad where the care is cheaper and sometimes better as well. In recent years, many older Germans have thus moved to Slovakia and Czech Republic and sometimes even to countries as far away as Thailand. At the same time, this practice has sparked much controversy, with some commentators deriding it as ‘Granny-export’. However affordable and good the care abroad might be, the thought is that the social and cultural attachments of older individuals, alongside any attachments that they might have to the land itself, render this practice immoral.

The aim of this talk is to assess these countervailing considerations. Specifically, it seeks to investigate under what conditions, if any, it is morally permissible to send older individuals to care homes abroad when they lack the competence to consent to this.

Bouke de Vries

Bouke de Vries is a postdoctoral fellow at Umeå's philosophy department. His new research project, entitled ‘Empty Nests: The Ethics and Politics of Filial Association with Parents’, is funded by the Swedish Research Council. He received his PhD from the European University Institute in Florence and was previously a postdoctoral fellow at the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity in Göttingen. Recent publications include De Vries, B. (2018) ‘The Right to be Publicly Naked: A defence of nudism, Res Publica and De Vries, B. (2018). Are Civic Integration Tests Justifiable? A three-step test’, In Poama, A. & A. Lever, The Routledge Handbook of Ethics and Public Policy, Oxford: Routledge, pp.407-421.

This website uses cookies.  More information.