Viewing the world from a larger perspective


Elderly tourists in a small boat off the coast of Norway, with mountains in background

Rocking those tea shops – travel and the over-50s

Woman with case boarding a train

Melissa off on an adventure, at Alexandria station, Egypt

A little while ago, I was asked to consult for a PR company who were pitching for a new tourist office client. One of the target markets was the over-50s. The 23-year-old who’d been tasked with coming up with a list of suitable ways of enticing the over-50s to visit said country had filled it up with tea shops and gardens.

Now – I am exceedingly fond of both tea shops and gardens. I was exceedingly fond of both when I was 20, when I was 30, now I’m in my 50s and fully expect to continue to love them both should I make it into my 90s. There’s nothing more delicious than scones, jam and clotted cream, unless perhaps it’s a really good coffee and walnut cake (with lots of icing) – and a nice cup of Earl Grey. Preferably while looking at something gorgeous like roses or a Gothic cathedral.

Hippy chicks and rockers

But stop and think about dates for a bit. When I was in my 20s, it was the 1980s – the boom years. When those in their 60s were 20 they were  70s chicks. Those in their 70s were flower children of the 1960s and the octagenarians are the 50s rock and roll generation! Today’s pensioners are yesterday’s wild men and feminists from Mick Jagger to Germaine Greer. These are the people who invented rock music, the pill and free love, who lived through the devastation of the

People climbing out of a safari jeep

Sundowners on safari in Zimbabwe

Cold War, the  Vietnam War and the first AIDS epidemic. These are the people who smoked pot, experimented with LSD – the hippies, the rockers, the punks. They are the people who fought the censorship laws when Lady Chatterley’s Lover was considered dangerously pornographic, created gay rights and equal rights for women. They are also the people who backpacked across Europe, interrailed, invented the hippy trail, sat at the feet of gurus in India, invented the gap year and volunteered for the Peace Corps or VSO. They started the trend for holidays on the Med, for cruising in Antarctica or trekking in the Himalayas. They created Lonely Planet and the Rough Guides, and the whole modern travel industry as we know it.

In other words – whatever you are doing, whatever you think may be original – they’ve been there, done it, bought the t-shirt and grown out of it. But it’s still stashed in the back of a drawer somewhere along with a whole bunch of memories unsuitable for sharing with shockable grandchildren.

Longboats, ziplines and a nice cup of tea

These days, they are probably still going strong, this indomitable breed. Only time, arthritis, bad hearts and the exorbitant cost of travel insurance mean that they can’t quite do everything at breakneck speed. My parents headed down the Amazon in a longboat at the age of 75. My friend Judy was ziplining and tandem parachuting in Australia at 70. And as for the Marys – the stories they tell – of being stuck in a hotel in Cairo for a week with Nina Simone, of dancing naked at the Isle of Wight Rock Festival…

So next time you are thinking about what the older generation want to do – it’s all the same things as you, but a bit more slowly and in a bit more comfort, with fewer stairs, and with a few more antacids and other medications! And, of course, with the occasional garden and a nice cup of tea thrown in…




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