On this page we look at some of the supports that are available to older people and those looking to return to Ireland to retire.
Free Travel Scheme
Everyone aged 66 and over living permanently in the Republic of Ireland can apply to get a Free Travel Pass, which allows you to travel on public bus and rail services free of charge. Once you have Free Travel, you can also apply for a Senior Smart Pass, which entitles you to free transport on public bus and rail in Northern Ireland.
If you are getting a social welfare pension, your Public Service Card will be issued showing that you have free travel automatically. If you are not receiving a social welfare pension but are eligible for free travel, you must first complete the Free Travel application form FT1. For more information, see this guide by our partners at Citizens Information.
Your health is an important consideration when contemplating or planning to return to Ireland. Visit our healthcare page for an overview of the Irish health system. Before returning, make sure you have access to any medical records and prescriptions from abroad—having a record of your medical history can help physicians in Ireland meet your healthcare needs upon return.
- Medical cards: Depending on your income, you may be entitled to a medical card from the Health Service Executive (HSE). Medical cards allow you to access a variety of health services free of charge, including GP visits and reduced prescription costs. If you receive a pension from another country in the European Union (EU) or the United Kingdom, you may still be eligible for a medical card as long as you meet certain criteria – contact the HSE at +353 416 850 300 or firstname.lastname@example.org or visit their medical card page for more information.
- GP visit cards: which allow you to see a doctor for free, are available to all permanent residents 70 or over regardless of income. You can apply via email or post by following the instructions on the HSE website.
See here for information on HSE services catering to older people in Ireland.
Housing for Older Irish Emigrants
No matter your age, start your search for accommodation well in advance of your return if possible. For information on buying, renting, and other housing options in Ireland, as well as homelessness supports, go to our housing page.Housing Information
Safe Home Ireland
If you are living abroad in rented accommodation and thinking about moving back to Ireland, you could apply to Safe Home Ireland for housing assistance before you return. Safe Home Ireland, a close partner of Crosscare Irish Diaspora Support Project, assists qualifying older Irish emigrants abroad to explore housing options back in their home county. In conjunction with Local Authorities and Housing Associations, Safe Home Ireland works to secure long-term affordable housing for older emigrants to return to, providing additional outreach supports to help clients resettle. To be eligible to apply to Safe Home Ireland, you must:
- Have been born in Ireland
- Be aged 57+
- Be capable of independent living
- Not own accommodation
- Be unable to provide accommodation from income or savings upon return to Ireland
Nursing Home Care and the Fair Deal Scheme
If you or a loved one need nursing home care on your return, contact your preferred facility as soon as possible. Due to limited availability and high demand, some facilities may have waiting lists. You may need to contact several facilities to find one that has immediate availability.
The cost of nursing home care varies.
The Fair Deal Scheme (also known as the Nursing Home Support Scheme) provides financial support for those in long-term nursing home care (including private, voluntary, and public nursing homes). To apply, you will need to complete an application form and then undergo care needs and financial assessments – more on the application process can be found here. If approved for Fair Deal, you will pay a specified amount towards the total cost of nursing home care and the HSE will pay the balance. While it is possible to apply for the Fair Deal Scheme from outside of Ireland, it can be difficult to complete a care needs assessment while abroad.
If you receive a state pension from another country, check if it can be paid to you in Ireland by contacting the office that pays you. Occupational pensions can generally be paid to you no matter where you live, but contact your pension administrator to confirm.
You may be eligible for a State Pension (Contributory) if you meet all of the following conditions:
- Age 66 or over
- You have worked in Ireland previously
- You have a record of social insurance contributions
You can apply for this before you return to Ireland. You could also qualify for this using social insurance contributions from countries with which Ireland has bilateral social security agreements – view the list on the Citizens Information website.
If you do not have sufficient social insurance contributions to qualify for a State Pension (Contributory), you could apply for a State Pension (Non-Contributory) once you are living in Ireland. You will need to satisfy the Habitual Residence Condition and a means test to qualify.
Depending on your age and circumstances, you may qualify for other state benefits upon return to Ireland, including the Living Alone Increase, Household Benefits Package, Fuel Allowance, and more. Learn more here.
Page last updated on 12 September, 2023