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Senior Citizen Stunt Car Drivers and Elephant Mahouts

Senior Citizen Stunt Car Drivers and Elephant Mahouts

No longer content with sterile cruise boat packages, pensioners are now after more adventurous experiences when they travel.

"65 is the new 25 so the travel and tourism industry needs to adapt to that reality," says Billie Jordan, Director of the adventure travel company for senior citizens, Discover Me Travel.

"Older people know experiences are far more important than material things and want unique adventures which are fun and take them outside their comfort zone. Their physical capabilities may be more limited than a 25 year old but that doesn't mean they can't participate in a wide range of adventurous activities.

"Our international tours are specifically designed for people who are young at heart but don't necessarily have high levels of fitness. On our tours they'll learn how to be a stunt car driver and jump over a two metre high ramp in Auckland, have a lesson in hip hop dancing with the world's oldest dance group, the Hip Op-eration Crew in Waiheke Island, gain a Certificate as an Elephant Mahout in the jungle of Thailand, learn street fighting self defence and how to break a board in the USA and travel to remote areas of the Himalayas to meet mountain tribes people without having to trek up any hills," says Jordan.

In the US 73% of seniors say engagement with nature is their most popular holiday activity.

"To cater for this new breed of adventure traveller, all our trips focus on cultural participation, rather than passive observation and include close encounters with nature, animals, and communities - without compromising on comfort. Seniors want to be close to nature - not just watch it through the window of a coach bus," says Jordan.

Senior Citizen traveller Leila Gilchrist says when she travels she wants to do more than take photos of pretty scenery.

"I want to feel a greater connection to the places I visit and get to know the people. I also want a real adventure and have a chance to do things I wouldn't normally consider doing at home. I may be 71 but my mind is still young and I don't want to be treated like an invalid when I travel," says Gilchrist.

As a result of the global increase in life expectancy, international travel is predicted to double from one to two billion in the next 20 years. With senior citizens due to outnumber children in just 15 years time, the grey population is now one of the fastest growing segments in the international travel market.

"The people we have on our tours range in age between 65 and 96 years old and they all want the same thing; a fun, socially stimulating and personally enriching experience. For this reason we keep our tours limited to 11 travellers so everyone can receive individual attention and never have to step on a mundane coach bus where local life just passes by," says Jordan.

Meeting new people is one of the biggest attractions for senior citizens when they travel, as they can often be isolated at home.

"We make sure they meet lots of interesting locals, not just their fellow travellers. On our tours they'll have lunch with a NASA Astronaut, enjoy an Amish Wedding Dinner, travel with a Nepalese Sherpa, spend the day with the long neck Karen tribes people in the Golden Triangle and learn hip hop from the Hip Op-eration Crew, the world's oldest dance troupe," says Jordan.

The rise of social media is also having an impact on the travel industry.

"Senior citizens are far more engaged in social media than people think. Just like young people, travel amongst senior citizens is seen as a currency to communicate and define their social status. Therefore, throughout our trips we take photos and videos of our travellers and upload them to social media so their friends and family can receive instant updates on their trip, well being, and have a life lasting digital record of their adventures," says Jordan.

Leila Gilchrist says she uses Facebook and YouTube to keep in touch with friends and family.

"I like the immediacy of social media and the fact I can take a selfie or photo of a place I'm visiting and upload it onto Facebook straight away for my friends and family back home to see. One of my favourite things a friend of mine and I loved to do on our last trip was photo bombing. The young people got a real laugh out of that as they mistakenly just viewed us as innocent little old ladies," says Gilchrist.

Billie Jordan leads the tours at Discover Me Travel but is perhaps better known as the Founder and Manager of the Hip Op-eration Crew; the oldest dance group in the world. Her recent Ted Talk, about how she believes the true potential of senior citizens is yet to be realised, has been commended internationally and earned her the nickname 'The Granny Whisperer'.

You can visit the Discover Me Travel website


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