Ever since global travel became an achievable pastime, it has been the domain of the young, the adventurous and the unencumbered. Until now. A growing trend in older travellers (Silver Nomads) looks set to continue indefinitely, and it would serve us well to be prepared...
What is a Silver Nomad?
It used to be that travelling was the domain of the young and the restless. For every grey hair grown you craved a little more stability and a little less discomfort. You were supposed to trade in your backpack for a sensible suitcase and be happy with your annual two-weeker in the nearest place that had sunshine and a direct flight.
Fortunately for us all, that is no longer the case. While many travel blogs - and often travel businesses - focus on drawing in the millennial crowd, there is a rising trade in older travellers who have packed in their day jobs and are making their way around the world.
Much like their younger counterparts, this is a diverse and growing bunch. While most are couples who’ve upped sticks together, many are solo, independent travellers who know what they want and are out to get it. These are the baby boomers - often cited as the luckiest generation in history. In some ways that may be true, but compare many of their childhood holidays with the current penchant for exotic beaches and hotels in the sun, and millennials may have to rethink.
Boomers came of age in the 60s, 70s and 80s, when travel was less widely available. They’re also the parents of said millennials, the most widely travelled generation ever to exist. Possibly inspired by their children, the boomers are realising that they have long retirements, good pensions and that if their teenage kids survived a trip to the other side of the world, they probably can too.
It’s true, too, that certain developments have made travel for the older consumer more palatable. With the rise of low cost domestic flights removing the need for long and uncomfortable overland journeys, a whole world - literally - of experiences has opened up. Travel is cheaper, faster and more comfortable than ever before, which has turned it from an inaccessible pursuit to an easy jaunt for those wishing to make the most of their twilight years.
Most popular amongst this age group - the over 55s - are organised tours, often with an educational or learning experience attached. Many travel operators see travellers comfortably into their 70s regularly and some report to have had travellers in their 90s! A number of companies are now adding an informative and educational motive to their trips and send tours organised and led by academic scholars - often baby boomers themselves - who are able to create a safe and structured environment in some of the world's more remote locations.
With the world's population projected to grow from 6.9 billion in 2010 to 8.3 billion by 2030 and the 60+ age band rising from 11% to 16% of the population, it's fair to predict that the increasing number of older travellers will continue to grow. Combine this rising life expectancy with advances in medicine meaning that people can expect to be healthier and active for longer, it seems only that the only sensible thing to do is to start thinking more and more about the silver haired traveller. Mover over millennial, grandma's here.