There are at least four ways in which old age and migration cross each other's paths. First of all, there are people who migrated for economic reasons, usually at a relatively young age, and who have grown old in a foreign country. Secondly, there are older people who migrate when (or because) they are old: in Europe, they are mostly from the affluent northern countries and travel southward. Thirdly, there is increasing employment of, and demand for, immigrant workers in old-age institutions in the northern countries. Finally, there is the out-migration of young people, mainly from rural areas, that results in older people being left behind without children to look after them. In all these cases, migration has a profound effect on the wellbeing and care of older people. The authors of this article explore a fifth linkage between migration and old age, by focusing on the (mainly illegal) immigrants who take on roles as private carers and, in effect, replace the children who have emigrated. Two cases, from Greece and Ghana, are presented and viewed in the two countries' political, cultural and economic contexts, and are then compared to conditions in The Netherlands. In both cases, involving a ‘stranger’ in the care of an older parent is regarded as a good and respectable solution to the problem of absent children and grandchildren: it follows rules of reciprocity and normally provides a good quality of care. Ironically, hiring full-time private care for older people is feasible in low-income countries but a rare luxury in high-income societies.