Ever dream of flying a plane? Cruising China's Yangtze River? How about going on an archaeological dig? Or helping a needy child as a foster grandparent? People over aged 55 are making dreams like these come true every day through programs offered through various travel organizations.

Getting an Education While on Vacation


Exploritas, formerly called Elderhostel, is the pioneer of enlightening educational programs for older adults. It was founded in 1975 by Marty Knowlton, a social activist and educator, who, in his mid-fifties, took an around-the-world walk and stayed in hostels. Exploritas covers a tremendous diversity of topics and locations. Furthermore, programs are aimed at a variety of abilities, so super active older adults and their sedentary counterparts can choose from the most appropriate activities, based on their level of exercise tolerance. International programs delve into many aspects of foreign culture, history, and nature. While intergenerational programs allow grandparents, for example, to bring their grandchildren along on adventures that will please both age groups, and allow for special bonding time.

Lifelong Learning at Universities

Inquisitive seniors can also fulfill their love of learning at institutes for learning in retirement programs held at many major universities. Participants can freely pursue their interests, taking courses in arts and literature, writing, and current affairs.

"We have set a goal of confounding the experts on what aging means," said Michael Markowitz, director of the New School of Social Research program in New York, in an article in Modern Maturity magazine. "Memory and cognitive functions actually can improve in old age by training and practice."

Other Enriching Travel Experiences

Seniors are obviously taking this message to heart as they flock to travel tours with learning opportunities sponsored by companies that cater to people over 55. "Our customers are looking for more than sightseeing; they are eager to learn," reports Karen Consoli, marketing manager for Vantage Delux World Travel.

Vantage Delux World Travel, Grand Circle Travel, and Overseas Adventure Travel

Vantage Deluxe World Travel, Grand Circle Travel, and Overseas Adventure Travel are agencies that provide travel programs for mature travellers. Some programs they offer are European river cruises, ocean cruises, and tours of parts of South America, the Middle East, Asia, and North America.

American Association for Retired Persons

The American Association for Retired Persons also offers tours for members plus many discounts on travel services.

Rolling Up Your Sleeves: Service Programs

Senior Corps

Helping others is a time-honored way to learn and grow. Retirement is the ideal time and opportunity for people to perform volunteer activities that they neglected because they were working full-time and raising a family.

The Senior Corps sponsors several programs that enable participants to make a difference:

  • The Foster Grandparents program, in which volunteers work with children with special or exceptional needs
  • Serving the Community, which involves work on community projects like building houses
  • Senior Companions who assist frail seniors or disabled adults

For those of you who fear that retirement means a life of early bird specials and lounge chairs by the pool, think again! Life is too short to miss out on all the opportunities to enrich your life and help others as well.