Valentine's special: ... or to discover that age is no barrier to an adventure

Older travellers also prefer a date with destiny.

When Alexander Gunn turned 60, his wife, Susan, was determined to make his birthday a memorable one. An avid watcher of westerns, he'd always longed to be a cowboy, to lasso the broncos and crack the whip just like John Wayne.

So when she saw a brochure advertising a 12-day break on a ranch in Arizona, her mind was made up. The retired couple from Margate joined 13 others for a holiday in the saddle, visiting film sets, swaggering through the swing doors of saloon bars, and generally acting like the Lone Ranger. "It was fantastic. We'd already been on quite a few adventure holidays, so we were used to doing something different," said Mrs Gunn.

The Gunns are typical of the get-up-and-go holiday style of the over- 50s. Travel companies have been quick to cotton on to the fact that nothing is off-limits for the adventurous, mature tourist. Trekking in the Himalayas, husky sledging in the Arctic, hot-air ballooning over the game parks of Tanzania, canoe trips in Borneo, spotting condors in Chile - the demand is insatiable.

You have to have the money to do this kind of thing, of course. But that's exactly what the grey market - as it is unkindly referred to by the industry - has. Affluent older travellers are prepared to push the boat out to get what they want.

According to a Saga survey, over-50s account for 80 per cent of the UK's private wealth, and 60 per cent of personal savings. They spend pounds 215bn a year and are major consumers of leisure and financial services. Two- thirds of today's over-50s feel at least 10 years younger than their actual age and are seeking more action-based activities.

Naturally, when you get beyond the half-century mark, the appeal of the candle-lit dinner tends to pall. Which is not to say that romance is dead. The romantic getaway is still a winner; it's just that couples won't be looking quite so longingly into each other's eyes and will need something else interesting to occupy them.

"Not only do older people have wider horizons and want to see far-flung places," said Derek Moore, director of Explore Worldwide, "they are also fitter and want to go on more demanding holidays. This means you frequently get young and old mixing together and learning from each other. It all adds to the interest, which is what people want. The only difference is that while older people are prepared to rough it with rucksacks during the days, in the evenings they want their creature comforts. It is adventure, but within safe limits."

The city break to mainland Europe - romantic or otherwise - is probably the most popular choice for older couples who just want to have a few days to themselves. Cheap flights from budget airlines, booked on the internet, have put hundreds of fascinating destinations within easy reach on any day of the week. With more and more airlines using regional UK airports, this phenomenon is now experiencing exponential growth.

Once there, having shelled out little on fares, they have more to spend on food, drink and entertainment. For my 50th birthday, my partner and I paid a total of pounds 19.98 to fly to Bilbao for a long weekend, stayed in a swish hotel overlooking the river Nervion, and proceeded to spend three days feasting our eyes on the Guggenheim museum and our bellies on Rioja and exquisite Basque cuisine.

The vast amount of expendable wealth owned by "third agers" has also given rise to what is known as celebratory travel. This could be birthday treats - such as the Gunns opted for - of second or third time around weddings, honeymoons, and anniversaries, for which couples are prepared to splash out. Often a family will link up with a group of friends to form a large party to celebrate a special occasion together.

One other factor, however, may be contributing to the growth in the senior travel market. Many are becoming convinced that, as they can't take their wealth with them, they're better-off spending it. "Once they've paid for college education and helped their children get on the housing ladder, they think they've done their bit," said David Metz, the author of Older richer fitter. "Older people used to believe in leaving a bequest for their children. Not any more."

GIVE ME THE FACTS

Saga (0800 096 0089; www.saga.co.uk)

Explore Worldwide (0870 333 4001; www.exploreworldwide. com)

Kuoni (0870 990 9905; www.kuoni.co.uk)

Older richer fitter by David Metz and Michael Underwood, Age Concern Books (pounds 16.99)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Sport
England's women celebrate after their 3rd place play-off win against Germany
Women's World CupFara Williams converts penalty to secure victory and bronze medals
Arts and Entertainment
Ricardo by Edward Sutcliffe, 2014
artPortraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb go on display
News
newsHillary Clinton comments on viral Humans of New York photo of gay teenager
Arts and Entertainment
The gang rape scene in the Royal Opera’s production of Gioachino Rossini’s Guillaume Tell has caused huge controversy
music
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Education

Recruitment Genius: Senior Textiles / Fashion Technician

£22000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: To contribute to the day-to-da...

Recruitment Genius: Health and Social Care NVQ Assessor

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: It is also essential that you p...

Recruitment Genius: ICT Infrastructure Manager

£27000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Edinburgh city centre scho...

Recruitment Genius: Plumber

£30000 - £31000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An independent boys' school sit...

Day In a Page

The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
Compton Cricket Club

Compton Cricket Club

Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

It helps a winner keep on winning
Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'