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Happy Trails 

A life of leisure shouldn’t mean sitting at home — here are some travel options for seniors

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Retirement can be the kickoff to leisurely afternoons spent learning a new hobby and the time to finally read all those books you’ve stockpiled over the years. But retirement pursuits don’t have to be sedentary. In fact, staying active and engaged is one key to staying healthy. And one of the best ways to do that is through travel.

“Seniors like to get out,” says Marj Tomes, tour planner at Corbin Senior Activity Center. “They want to see sights that maybe they didn’t see while they were working all their lives. Now that retirement is upon them, they have the time to travel.”

Interactions with others help reduce social isolation, which is a risk factor for declining health. And it’s just plain fun to explore new places and cultures. But the definition of travel is as broad as the world is large. There are plenty of excursions that don’t require a passport or even an overnight stay that can help seniors get out and about.

Spokane’s Corbin Center orchestrates at least 10 day-trips per month and 25 overnight trips throughout the year. They can make travel arrangements and ticket reservations for groups as large as 48 people.

“Seniors like to travel in a group because they feel more secure,” Tomes says. “They develop relationships and friendships and meet new people. It’s a fun, interactive way for them to connect.”

The center’s day-trips include historic walking tours of downtown Spokane, flora and fauna presentations at Finch Arboretum, winery tastings and excursions to Grand Coulee Dam. Overnight trips include tours of the Oregon coast, excursions to Las Vegas and even visits to Rome and Africa.

“We have an interesting mix of people, trips and price ranges,” Tomes says. “It’s kind of fun to throw everything and everyone into the mix.”

For those on a budget, the Hillyard Senior Center specializes in day-trips and overnight travel for low-income seniors. “We do our best to keep the cost down,” says Sarah Tinkle, the center’s travel coordinator. “We want to give people the opportunity to go places they were never able to monetarily, because individual travel is very expensive.”

HSC provides six to eight day-trips per month, and seven overnight trips each year. Day-trips include visits to the Spokane Civic Theatre, a monthly breakfast, tea dates and museum tours. Overnight activities include trips to Glacier National Park, Seattle Mariners baseball games and Leavenworth.

“We do a lot of sit-down activities that fulfill the arts and culture [needs],” says Tinkle. “And we are also starting to see a number of active retirees coming out.”

While travel to new places can certainly stimulate the mind and imagination, some seniors want more. Road Scholar (formerly known as Elderhostel) is a national seniors organization that provides educational tours in all 50 states, and travels to more than 90 different countries. Their tours are guided by experts in the field and provide seniors with in-depth classroom experiences combined with behind-the-scenes learning opportunities. The tours vary by ability level. At a minimum, participants need to at least be able to handle their own luggage, go up and down a few stairs and walk short distances. Some tours require a high level of fitness for “full days of fast-paced, strenuous physical challenges,” according to the organization’s website.

Highlighted Washington tours include exploring historic mountain lodges of the Pacific Northwest, the opportunity to learn glassblowing at the Chihuly Studios in Seattle, and a geology and history tour along the Pend Oreille River near Newport.

“It’s important for seniors to get out and travel,” says Tinkle. “They always have little lists of places they’ve wanted to go, and these trips allow them the opportunity to build friendships.”

TRAVEL TIPS

Corbin Senior Center, www.corbinseniorcenter.org or 327-1584

Hillyard Senior Center, www.hillyardseniorcenter.org or 482-0803

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