Prime Time: Senior travelers have appetite for learning and cuisine
CAPITAL REGION The days of seniors just playing bingo and cards in retirement are over.
Today’s seniors are beating the winter blues by traveling to Europe, the Caribbean and everywhere in between.
“It’s not like years ago when the old folks would sit around doing nothing,” said Gina Schuhl of Glenville, who goes to Aruba every year.
Don Hale of Glenville has been on a half-dozen cruises, most to the Caribbean.
“The food is number one. You get as much as you want,” he said.
International destinations are popular with seniors. Carole Chaisson of Scotia went on a trip to Spain and France.
“It was a wonderful trip. We brought back some wine and olive oil,” she said.
Joan Bolde of Glenville also said she loves to see new places. She particularly enjoyed visiting the Great Wall of China and Switzerland. “One day, a little shepherd came down with his cows right in front of our hotel and the cowbells were ringing,” she said of the Switzerland trip.
Seniors often like to travel as part of a group, according to Patrice Mastrianni, program and marketing director at the Adult & Senior Center of Saratoga. “We give them a good rate and they’re with people their age of similar interest,” she said.
Popular destinations are Boston and New York City. “Seniors don’t like to drive into a city on their own. It’s scary for them,” she said.
The center has also organized trips to the national parks, China, Australia, the Napa Wine Valley and the Rocky Mountains. Museums and art galleries are other popular trips, according to Mastrianni.
For those who want a little education with their trip, the organization Road Scholar has 6,500 trips in all 50 states and 150 programs.
“We offer programs basically on every subject you can imagine,” said Stacie Fasola, director of public and media relations for Road Scholar.
People are looking for more exotic locales, according to Fasola.
Cuba is seeing a rise in popularity, and Myanmar (formerly Burma), which had been off people’s radar for awhile, is back on it because Secretary of State Hillary Clinton took a trip there and a recent Nobel Prize winner is of Burmese descent.
“Our folks have traveled a lot and they kind of want to go off the beaten path and experience the Road Scholar experience, an educational component,” Fasola said.
It is not for everybody, she added. “If you want to go to Paris and go shopping, this isn’t the program for you. If you want to go to Paris and learn about the richness of the cuisine from a noted chef or take a cooking class or something with a little more depth, we have expert lectures.”
Seniors are also interested in “voluntourism,” which is volunteer opportunities in other parts of the world, through Road Scholar.
All prices include tips and meals and accommodations and are an average of $150 a day for domestic programs and $275 for international ones.
The average age for a person to take a trip is in the early 60s and the average age for a repeat customer is in the 70s. Since women live longer, there are a lot of solo female travelers.
Carole Stevens of Glenville is a busy senior and has used Road Scholar for some of her trips.
“In the past three years, I have been on a trip every month,” said Stevens, a retired teacher. “Retirement is fun.”
Stevens said she wants to avoid the tourist traps. She has been on trips to the national parks and a tour on Route 66. She has also visited Germany, Austria and Italy.
There doesn’t seem to be one “getaway” destination for seniors, according to Eric Stigberg, spokesman for AAA Northway. “They like to travel where everybody else does,” he said. “It’s really a frame of mind. Age isn’t necessarily a defining quality anymore.”