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.

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 £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 £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 (£16.99)

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
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.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Advisor

    £8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Excellent opportunities are available for par...

    Investigo: IT Auditor

    £60000 - £75000 per annum + Benefits : Investigo: A global leading travel busi...

    Recruitment Genius: Chef De Partie x 2

    £16000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This charming and contemporary ...

    Recruitment Genius: Membership Sales Advisor - OTE £20,000 Uncapped

    £15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing fitness cha...

    Day In a Page

    In a world of Saudi bullying, right-wing Israeli ministers and the twilight of Obama, Iran is looking like a possible policeman of the Gulf

    Iran is shifting from pariah to possible future policeman of the Gulf

    Robert Fisk on our crisis with Iran
    The young are the new poor: A third of young people pushed into poverty

    The young are the new poor

    Sharp increase in the number of under-25s living in poverty
    Greens on the march: ‘We could be on the edge of something very big’

    Greens on the march

    ‘We could be on the edge of something very big’
    Revealed: the case against Bill Cosby - through the stories of his accusers

    Revealed: the case against Bill Cosby

    Through the stories of his accusers
    Why are words like 'mongol' and 'mongoloid' still bandied about as insults?

    The Meaning of Mongol

    Why are the words 'mongol' and 'mongoloid' still bandied about as insults?
    Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

    Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

    Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
    Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

    The last Christians in Iraq

    After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
    Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

    Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

    Britain braced for Black Friday
    Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

    From America's dad to date-rape drugs

    Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
    Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

    Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

    As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'
    Oh come, all ye multi-faithful: The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?

    Oh come, all ye multi-faithful

    The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
    Dr Charles Heatley: The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

    The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

    Dr Charles Heatley on joining the NHS volunteers' team bound for Sierra Leone
    Flogging vlogging: First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books

    Flogging vlogging

    First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
    Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars

    Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show

    US channels wage comedy star wars
    When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine? When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible

    When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine?

    When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible