What is Elderhostel?

Cathy Rogers

Elderhostel is a not-for-profit organization that provides educational opportunities and learning adventures to people age 55 and over. Trips involve lectures, discussions, and cultural outings in more than 90 countries. Elderhostel is an economic and convenient way to travel and learn, because trips are all-inclusive and the organization plans and handles all details.

Elderhostels often have active outdoor programs, like golf.
Elderhostels often have active outdoor programs, like golf.

There are no academic requirements to participate in Elderhostel, so each group is a unique blend of people of various cultures, backgrounds and educational levels. Programs are centered around various categories, including active outdoor activities, discovery and exploration, study of an individual skill, and service learning. Even though the program offers high-quality learning, there is no homework or exams.

Elderhostels allow people more independence than a nursing home.
Elderhostels allow people more independence than a nursing home.

Active outdoor programs include bicycling, winter or water sports, golf and tennis, and birding. Discovery programs include national parks, signature city tours, and holidays and cultural festivities. In the individual skills category, programs in cooking, crafts, computers, performing arts, and more are offered. Some of the more traditional programs include studies of history, philosophy, and fine arts. There are even intergenerational programs that allow grandparents and grandchildren to explore a locale or activity together.

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Elderhostels are more open than a nursing home, giving relatives more opportunities to visit.
Elderhostels are more open than a nursing home, giving relatives more opportunities to visit.

The cost of participation in Elderhostel includes the course, accommodations, and most meals and gratuities, as well as lectures, field trips, cultural excursions, and insurance. Accommodations are generally in hotels, inns, retreat centers, and college campuses. Of course, depending on the locale, accommodations may be on a ship or in a tent! If Elderhostel makes use of a college campus, accommodations are generally in apartments, rather than dormitories. Anyone can enroll in an Elderhostel program; there is no membership fee.

Some elderhostel have programs that give grandchildren and grandparents the chance to explore together.
Some elderhostel have programs that give grandchildren and grandparents the chance to explore together.

Elderhostel programs are offered in Africa, Asia, Australia, Canada, Europe, and North and South America. The least expensive options are within the United States. A limited number of scholarships are available for trips within the continental US. Although Elderhostel programs can accommodate participants with disabilities, those interested in international programs should consider health restrictions.

Seniors living in an elderhostel have more opportunities to stay in touch with relatives that if they lived in a nursing home.
Seniors living in an elderhostel have more opportunities to stay in touch with relatives that if they lived in a nursing home.
Many elderhostels offer outdoor sports like tennis.
Many elderhostels offer outdoor sports like tennis.
Elderhostels often employ staff to assist with housekeeping tasks.
Elderhostels often employ staff to assist with housekeeping tasks.

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