2012.06.06 Life at 50+ makes me want Elderhostel

Written by David Green.

By COLLEEN LEDDY

Flipping through the April/May AARP magazine this weekend, I noticed a two page ad about their “Life @ 50+” event in New Orleans this September and yearned to go.

The event features celebrity speakers, “lifestyle and learning” sessions, tours, exhibits, and even an opportunity to help with the redevelopment of New Orleans by volunteering to do work in the neighborhoods.

The AARP ad brought to mind thoughts of the Elderhostel program (now called Road Scholars). Back in the 80s and 90s, my in-laws used to take trips to fascinating places where they took classes and learned new and interesting things—but didn’t have to take any tests or write papers. It was like college for grown-ups without the stress of getting good grades. What could be more fun?!

Back then, you had to be 50 to participate or be married to someone who was. I considered it one of the perks of marrying an older man. David is seven years my senior and I couldn’t wait for him to get older and turn 50 so we could go on an Elderhostel trip. 

But when David turned 50 eleven years ago, Ben was just starting college and Rosie and Maddie were still at home. We wouldn’t have gone on trips without them, so Elderhosteling went on the back burner. 

Age-wise, I think now must be the time we should be going, but we’re both so busy with our jobs that it’s not really feasible. And with Ben and Sarah expecting our next grandbaby Oct. 5, Elderhosteling isn’t happening. We’d much rather spend our money visiting our kids and grandkids.

That is, as long as our kids don’t ever divorce us. That was the next thing I flipped to in the AARP magazine. ”When Your Kid ‘Divorces’ You” was a sidebar to the article, “The Stranger in Your Family: You’ve raised them. Now they’ll barely speak to you. What’s driving the rise in parent-child estrangements?”

I moved from that depressing article to an essay about appreciating old people; it cheered me up considerably. I was well into it before I wondered who wrote this pleasant article, and lo and behold, discovered it was our friend Elizabeth Berg, the New York Times bestselling author who visited the library three years ago.

In “Forever Young? Really? What we lose by refusing to act our age,” Elizabeth recounts stories of her childhood interactions with her grandfather whom she adored: “He would pop out his false teeth and then gulp them back in (we thought they were real, so you can imagine how impressed we were).”

Her essay was more about the outward appearance of aging, but made me think about how I really must be getting old because I’ve totally lost that carefree exuberance I had as a young adult.

I know I am old because when Maddie e-mails things like “Sold Sunny and got a job with Jim for 3 weeks. Big day,” I cringe. 

Oh, I’m thrilled that she has unloaded “Sunny,” the one-thing-wrong-after-another camper van, but I shudder at the thought of her not only working for, but living with, the unknown Jim. 

Well, I do know a tiddley bit about Jim. Back when Maddie’s friend Natalie was still in New Zealand, Jim was the guy who gave them a ride when they were hitchhiking—and then later suggested they buy the one-thing-wrong-after-another camper van.

We learned about Jim in a Feb. 14 e-mail. 

“Successful hitching. Made it to Christchurch and staying at a nice man’s house. He owns an organic yoghurt company. Tomorrow we’ll try to buy a campervan. And avoid earthquakes.” 

Such a short e-mail, but so fraught with seeds of worry: They’re hitchhiking? They’re staying in the home of a man who picked them up while hitchhiking? They’re buying a vehicle? And, oy, earthquakes. 

I had forgotten that I should worry about earthquakes. I must have glossed right over that back in February. I’m still stuck on “girl alone, living with nice man who owns an organic yogurt company” and thankful that we’ve made it past “girl in New Zealand eating $3 lunches with the Hare Krishnas.”

If I die of worry before I die of old age I’ll never get to Elderhostel.

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