With people living longer, healthier lives (we see you New Zealand) it is no surprise that many seniors are taking advantage of retirement with travel. If you have an itch for a European getaway and are of the older crowd, here are some of the best senior-friendly activities in Europe you must try.
No matter how young you are at heart, old age can limit the amount of walking an older crowd is up for. The best way to enjoy the sites without getting worn out is to take a river cruise. River cruises can be found all throughout Europe, but jaunts up the Thames or Seine Rivers are the most notable. Unlike an ocean cruise, river cruises usually takes less time, are cheaper and more pleasant for the older crowd. Instead of baking in the hot sun in the middle of an ocean, river cruisers experience frequent breezes and shade from protruding trees or buildings. Sailing down a European river is a great way to visit multiple destinations and take in the scenery even without walking miles or lugging around bags.
Whether you are new to wine travel or a well-trained connoisseur, you can't go wrong with any of the wine tours offered in Europe. A trip to wine country in France or to a vineyard in Italy is a great way for seniors to enjoy a relaxing, leisurely day without the hustle and bustle of European cities and hot spots. Often, wine tours take visitors around with the help of a small cart or bus, keeping seniors off their feet and out of the sun. A winery tour gives the older crowd a taste of some of the finest European dining too, as the wine is expertly paired with certain foods.
Museums are another option for senior citizens who are exploring Europe. Most museums have elevators or are wheel chair accessible, allowing seniors to experience the art and history on their own. While museums often seem daunting because of their size, and you might be worried such a large place will be tiring, they are actually a great place to sit back and spend time with some of Europe's finest history. Take advantage of the benches—sit down, rest your feet and cool off in the air conditioning rather than trekking through the crowded European streets on a hot day.
Europe has become so popular with the 65-and-older crowd that this region has experienced a boom in guided tours geared toward this demographic. Guided tours explore the cities of Europe at a leisurely pace to avoid tiring out participants and make sure the attendees are well-informed ahead of time if an itinerary involves extensive walking. Guided tours are also known to offer individual audio devices that are tuned to hear the guide's commentary so seniors who may be hard-of-hearing are still fully involved with the tour. Many countries in Europe have a maximum age limit on car rentals, so seniors are often unable to drive themselves to must-see destinations, therefore a guided tour is the best bet for solo senior explorers.
If you are a senior citizen who is not quite up for a wine tour or spending the day in a museum, there are still several other options to fully immerse yourself in the European culture. Several Elderhostel programs offer courses that allow older crowds to explore new worlds and cultures. For instance, seniors can take a digital photography class on the Almafi coast or cooking classes in Tuscany. Learning a new language or expanding one's artistic abilities with an art or painting class are other options. Expanding horizons is something anyone of any age can experience and enjoy. These courses are intimately connected with the lifestyle of each region and allow seniors to get a taste of Europe with less physical effort.
If you are of older age and still looking to jet set to Europe, or you are planning to travel with a senior, here are a few more tips to make the holiday as enjoyable as possible. The best time to visit Europe is during the off seasons, so from April through mid-June or September and October. This allows you to avoid the crowds and the heat of summer. If stairs are a problem, request a ground-floor room to stay in, and check with museums and other attractions if there are elevators available for guests to use.
Travel insurance is especially important for seniors venturing overseas. In case of a medical emergency or other accident, be prepared and make sure your older friend is covered.
Image courtesy of Flickr user Sabrina M; cropped from original