I love today’s post, from guest blogger Layla Black of Groovy Grape Tours, because it really resonates with my mom’s attitude on aging and with the reasons why I named this site Travel with Aging Parents (rather than Travel with Elderly Parents). At 83, my mom definitely does not consider herself “elderly”! Read on to learn about options for aging travelers who share the perspective that you’re NEVER too old to plan an adventure!!

___________________

Earlier this year, the UK’s Daily Mail declared—with some gusto, we might add—that you’re not “old” until you’re 80. This was the conclusion drawn from a public opinion survey that took the opinions of 2,000 Britons into account. And while public opinion does not a prognosis make, it certainly indicates a change in the way that aging parents view themselves and are perceived by others.

There were a few memorable takeaways from this survey, including these highlights:

  • More than 20 percent of responders believed you could reach 90 before being considered old.
  • Retirement is no longer the hallmark of old age.
  • Retirees are no longer perceived as elderly people who sit in armchairs and watch television.
  • Many view retirement as a whole new chapter in life, and world travel is a possibility for retirees.

The prospect of staying active into retirement is a positive thing for aging parents. In fact, plenty of empirical research indicates that staying active is exceptionally good for seniors. For example, the American Heart Association found that boosting your level of physical activity after the age of 65 significantly lowers the risk of heart attack. That’s just one study—and there are dozens (if not hundreds) more just like it.

With that in mind, this could be a great time to start planning an adventure activity or two with your parents. We’re not suggesting that you scale Mount Everest or shoot the rapids at Nicaragua’s Mosquito Coast (though a lot of seniors would certainly be open to the possibility). Instead, take a careful survey of your parents’ abilities, talk with them about their desire to engage in a high-octane activity or two, and plan accordingly.

You might even find that some of your fondest memories of time spent with your parents end up occurring later in their lives.

NEVER too old to plan an adventure!

August 2011 – Sitka, Alaska: Mom’s first time kayaking (she turned 81 the month before this picture was taken).

Don’t Underestimate Your Parents’ Abilities
When you’re planning adventure activities, it’s essential that you fully consider your parents’ ability levels. That said, resist the urge to underestimate exactly what they can handle. They’ll have a good idea of their capabilities. Of course, any activities that involve risk or require strenuous level of endurance should be checked against a doctor’s advice.

You don’t have to look far to find examples of elderly persons shattering stereotypes of what the body can endure. Consider UK octogenarian Barbara Smith, who took part in a sponsored skydive for charity to mark her 80th birthday. Over the course of her life, she has raised £750,000 (US$1.27 million) and received the Queen’s birthday honor for her lifelong commitment to charity.

Skydiving’s not for everyone, but plenty of other examples indicate that a person’s age doesn’t automatically rule out the possibility of engaging in extreme adventure activities .

 

Be Absolutely Sure of the Physical Expectations
When you are planning an adventure to enjoy with your parents, it’s essential to know exactly what sort of physical expectations will be involved. While they certainly don’t fall in the “extreme” category, road trips can be a great adventure for seniors to enjoy—especially when they take place far from home. For example, consider the Great Ocean Road tours offered by Groovy Grape Tours in Australia. These tours snake along the southern coast of Victoria, taking in classic surfing beaches, stretches of the Australian bush, and the odd koala. This iconic journey offers a host of adventure opportunities along the way.

One great thing about a road trip is being able to travel in relative comfort. Just make sure to rent a comfortable vehicle so that time spent in the car is relaxing and rejuvenating. Rest periods during transit will enhance the time spent walking along the coast, stopping by historic attractions, and (when appropriate) engaging in a higher-octane adventure activity.

Most importantly, each traveler should know his or her ability level. A long walk along challenging terrain won’t be fun for anyone if it exceeds the ability level of even one person in the group. With that in mind, there is no substitute for open discussion and realistic expectations. You can always plan for less and then add to the itinerary depending on how everyone feels.

 

Don’t Let Your Plans Get in the Way of a Real Adventure
Whether planning a solo round-the-world trip or a weekend outing with aging parents, it’s easy to get too caught up in the planned itinerary. To be sure, the planning stage is exciting, and it builds anticipation for the time you and your parents will spend together. However, there’s something to be said for spontaneity and the role that it plays in a truly memorable holiday experience.

Sure, you may have planned to stop at every prominent Civil War site between Pennsylvania and Georgia, or to work in a different outdoor activity every day of the week. But if you plan too much, you may end up putting your parents (and yourself, for that matter) at risk of a coming down with a classic case of travel burnout.

It often works out that the real adventure starts when you ditch the planned activity and embrace a spontaneous opportunity. Have you happened across an incredible view that you hadn’t expected? By all means, park the car and spend some time together in that moment. An unexpected diversion like this could easily end up becoming one of your most cherished memories of time spent with your parents. Who cares if you miss a surfing lesson or have to pass on a two-hour stop at a museum? Spontaneity is the stuff of real adventures.

____________________

Layla Black is a freelance writer working for Groovy Grape Tours, an all-inclusive tour company offering adventures through southern and central Australia.