EDITOR'S NOTE: This article was originally published in the April 2009 issue of Kiplinger's Retirement Report. To subscribe, click here.
Jack Miller, an 84-year-old retired chemical engineer, has taken annual bicycle trips to Europe for the past 23 years. Miller recalls a highlight from a biking trip to the Netherlands: breakfast at a windmill where he chatted with the windmill's owner, who clomped around in authentic wooden shoes. "Biking, even in the wind and the rain, always gives me a sense of accomplishment," says Miller, a widower who lives in Lenexa, Kan.
||Find Health Coverage Before Medicare|
||Baby-Boomer Retirement Center|
||More Advice on Your Retirement|
The number of seniors like Miller who seek out vacations that involve physical exertion, such as bicycling, hiking or water sports, is rising. And tour operators and spa owners are offering special itineraries geared to older travelers who want to take workshops on yoga, pilates and nutrition.
These fitness-minded travelers would rather "immerse themselves in healthy living than sit on a beach under an umbrella sipping cocktails," says Cathy Husid-Shamir, of the Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health, in Stockbridge, Mass. The center offers more than 750 programs, from the healing arts to canoeing, snowshoeing, bicycling and kayaking.
International Bicycle Tours (www.internationalbicycletours.com; 860-767-7005), based in Essex, Conn., is aimed at the over-50 market. It offers 100 tours a year in bicycling, barge and bike combinations, and Nordic walking. Most trips are to Europe, although a small number are to U.S. destinations, such as Cape Cod, Mass.
The bicyclists ride an average of 30 miles a day, with frequent rest stops. "I have seen people with serious medical conditions on these trips -- body parts replaced, heart stents, quadruple bypass, cancer survivors," owner Frank Behrendt says.
Nordic walking involves walking with a pole in each hand. The poles propel the body forward, burning more calories and using more muscle groups. On a typical day, participants walk six to seven miles, with stops for sightseeing, breaks and snacks.
With a bike and barge trip, the barge allows travelers to sleep in the same cabin throughout the trip, which is more relaxing than moving every few days. Each morning, the barge moves to the next destination, and the bikers meet up with it later in the day.
Combining vigorous activities with relaxation at a spa is another growing trend. "As we age, we've learned that putting health, wellness, fitness and movement into a vacation is a given,” says Susie Ellis, president of Spa Finders (www.spafinder.com), in New York City.
A case in point is the vacation taken last year by Robert Schwob, 68, a retired biology professor, and his wife, Peg, 69, a retired second-grade teacher. The Minneapolis couple took a one-week Elderhostel spa-and-hiking vacation to St. George, Utah. "On hikes, we could see huge red cliffs with snow caps and evergreens sticking out on top," says Robert, who, with Peg, has taken about ten bicycle trips in the past decade.
The trip included two long hikes in Zion National Park, a three-mile walk through the desert, swimming and water aerobics in indoor pools, gym workouts, and the couple's first spa treatments, including shiatsu massages.
Active retirees like the Schwobs are the type of clients Elderhostel (www.elderhostel.org) is attempting to reach with a growing emphasis on fitness programs. Steve Lembke, vice-president of programming, says that Elderhostel's younger clients, age 55 to 70, are comfortable with "fitness as a vacation concept." Elderhostel offers 44 trips in the health-and-fitness category, including horseback riding in Iceland and trekking Austria's Tyrolean Ranges.