There’s a season for everything, according to Ecclesiastes and The Byrds, and retirement might be the time for travel for seniors. Typically, money squirreled away and earmarked for later years goes toward cruises and other adventures.
“It’s an occasion to make up for lost holidays postponed when the children were small or elderly parents needed caretaking,” said Patricia Scheid, a retired nurse who volunteers as the Los Altos Senior Center travel desk coordinator.
Scheid helms the desk 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays, answering inquiries and researching places to visit.
The Senior Center offers day trips and travel excursions for older adults who may want to relive a childhood memory or watch a play from younger years. For example, a past trip to see a performance of Gilbert and Sullivan’s “H.M.S. Pinafore” drew high marks, Scheid said.
“That was one time they could go to a show they’ve known and loved and revisit the past,” she said.
As time goes on, however, the aches and pains of arthritis and aging in general may snuff out plans for round-the-world odysseys. That’s when trips designed mainly for older adults – such as a recent foray to Willow Heights Mansion in Morgan Hill – could prove to be an ideal solution for those with wanderlust.
The most important criteria for acceptable senior outings are accessibility and affordability, but Scheid strives to keep things interesting, as well.
Scheid’s dilemma involves arranging fun trips without physical obstacles such as stairs or a lot of walking.
“Los Altos seniors are aging, and trips are becoming more difficult to plan because you want to make sure there are no steps,” she said. “They have their aids (walkers and canes), so it limits walking.”
That makes trips to San Francisco tricky, but there are exceptions. An upcoming center excursion July 12 to the de Young Museum for the Picasso masterpieces exhibition proves feasible.
“There’s not a lot of walking, there are places to stop and sit, so it’s good for anyone who has trouble walking,” Scheid said.
Tickets are $55 for members, including a dollar tip for the driver.
In September, the center will head to Modesto’s Hilmar Cheese Co. and Sciabica’s Olive Oil Co., another easy walking terrain. At $72 per person, including a dollar for the driver’s tip, members get a full buffet lunch and guided tour.
The next all-day trip leaves Los Altos 9:15 a.m. May 24 for the Monterey Bay Aquarium, $75 for members. Scheid said the tour allows participants to go at their own pace.
Nonmembers are welcome on the trips but pay $10 more.
The trips allow seniors “a chance to expand their minds, not just to waste away at home,” Scheid said. From her travel desk vantage point, she notices that today’s seniors differ from those of past generations.
For one thing, they prefer being called “older adults” instead of “seniors.” They hike, swim and take part in adventures for as long as they are able.
“We don’t feel old – we’re much more active (than past generations),” said Scheid, 75. “We like to get out.”
Her passion for travel adventure doesn’t stop with the Los Altos trips. Like many other seniors, Scheid often registers for day trips sponsored by other senior centers.
“I heard (the play) ‘Billy Elliott’ is coming to San Francisco, and I want to go to that,” she said.
For seniors who want to venture farther afoot, there are other ways to travel. Candace Bates, the Senior Center’s recreation coordinator, noted that the Recreation Department uses Collette Vacations (www.collettevacations.com) as well as local travel agencies to plan city-sponsored trips.
Road Scholar (www.roadscholar.org), an independent travel group formerly known as Elderhostel, provides another option. Emphasizing lifelong learning, Road Scholar offers skill-based – for those who want to learn to paint or cook – or adventure excursions, among others. The website lists activity ratings for each package.
An active septuagenarian, Scheid likes taking the Road Scholar trips. She recently returned from her first trip to Mount Rushmore. In addition, as a single senior, Schied said she feels secure with Road Scholar, because “you’re never alone, and there are always people around.” Travelers take their meals together, share rooms and learn about a variety of subjects.
The organization used to house participants in college dorms but now reserves hotel rooms. Another benefit – your trip is insured. When her prospective roommate last year passed away two weeks prior to a scheduled trip, Road Scholar paid the difference for Schied to stay in a double room by herself.
Senior Center member K. Gabrielle Tiemann said the trips are “just wonderful – one of Los Altos’ best-kept secrets.”
As vice chairwoman of the Los Altos/Los Altos Hills Senior Committee, Tiemann clearly recognizes the benefits of travel for seniors.
Tiemann has lived in Los Altos for 46 years. She is Swiss-German and fondly recalls bicycling around Europe as a teenager.
Since she retired from the escrow business four years ago, Tiemann has restricted herself to day trips.
“And what a wonderful time I’ve had, going to see ‘Beach Blanket Babylon’ in San Francisco and on other trips,” she said.
Tiemann, who took the road less traveled and decided to remain single her entire life, appreciates visiting places in groups. However, she said, “Had I lacked for male companionship, that would have made the difference.”
For more information, call the travel desk at 947-2802.