What should my older outdoorsy dad do to void loneliness over the winter?
September 13, 2011 1:29 PM   Subscribe

What can my divorced older parent do to get away from home and avoid loneliness, particularly in the winter? He likes eating and the outdoors, but isn't religious. A warm spot with built-in company of some type would be ideal.

My father, who is in his seventies, recently divorced from my mother after being separated for more than five years. He now lives alone in a rural part of the Northwest, near where he used to be a forestry professor. While he had planned on travelling and being pretty active after retirement, that wasn't what my mother had in mind and they ended up separated and now divorced.

During the summer and good weather, he often spends time out fishing, hunting, and hiking, though of course he is slowing down and does more out of a car than from horseback or by foot than he used to. In the winter, he ends up mostly housebound for long periods of time due to bad weather. During this time he tends to get very lonely and gloomy. Recently, his dog passed away so this will probably be worse this winter. While he has some money for retirement and travel, he is not wealthy.

We are trying to find things to suggest that he can do that will get him out of the house for some or all of the winter. While he could just go on vacation somewhere, he still ends up lonely if he is by himself and tends to come home then. He is very charming and has great stories to tell about his life, so he gets along great in groups. He loves eating, and his favorite foods are ones that are foraged or grown fresh locally. He has a lot of affinity for native americans, and is very concerned about global warming.

We are open to considering pretty much anything that is: active, outdoorsy, comes with or builds some community, and is in a warmer clime. Ideally, there might be some sort of volunteer activity or outdoor activity that isn't killer expensive, but which comes with a group of people who are there together and who would be good company for the duration of the trip. It is worth noting that he isn't religious and that trips that center around religious activities wouldn't be of interest.

What is out there for older active folk who enjoy company?
posted by procrastination to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (20 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Does he have any hobbies that he's good at? Combine that with his penchant for lecturing, and maybe he could (volunteer) to teach a class on something at a community center. Maybe making fishing lures or something, if he's really into fishing? Classes like that must exist, right? He could even take some classes himself.
posted by phunniemee at 1:35 PM on September 13, 2011

Would he be willing to volunteer at a library or elementary school? A lot of them have programs for older adults to read to kids and/or be 'honorary grandparents'.
posted by easily confused at 1:38 PM on September 13, 2011

Best answer: I have an older relative who likes to go on ElderHostel trips. They're travel groups for older adults which are focused on learning. Here's some Natural History ones.
posted by bleep at 1:44 PM on September 13, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks for the answers so far. We are more looking for some type of trip away from the area where he lives, hopefully to someplace warm where he can spend time outside. Sorry I didn't make that clearer.
posted by procrastination at 1:44 PM on September 13, 2011

Maybe he could volunteer for something like the oil spill clean-up.

posted by amodelcitizen at 1:55 PM on September 13, 2011

What about volunteering outdoors? I just took part in Hawkcount! - we basically sat outside on a hill and counted migrating hawks.

I live in a pretty outdoorsy area, and there's usually something going on: migrating bird counts, groups that will tramp through the woods to look for particular rare wildflowers, senior outdoor hiking/camping/birdwatching trips, etc. Perhaps get him in touch with his local DNR (or the DNR in a state where he wants to visit) to see what's up? Or, if there's an Audubon Society/Sierra Club/etc. branch in the area, he might be able to hook up with them.

Personally, I can't wait until I'm an elder and can spend time watching the birds, looking for wildflowers, and teaching kids about frogs and stuff. :)
posted by Elly Vortex at 1:55 PM on September 13, 2011

He was a forestry professor. There's a wealth of knowledge he can share (you may have to google for this) with a variety of NGOs and such like in warm countries facing challenges of deforestation due to firewood use as well as climate related impact. Can he become an expert consultant?
posted by infini at 2:04 PM on September 13, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Elderhostel
posted by Wordwoman at 2:06 PM on September 13, 2011

My grandmother has gone a little too far for this- but she used to love to go on cruises. There are senior ones that go all over- She went every where from Alaska to the Bahamas.
There are ones specifically for older folks with built in activities for socializing.

Another option is senior bus trips. My Grandfather went (ALONE) on this cross contry baseball bus trip for like a months. He saw most of the US and loved it. I'm sure that there are tons around with the aging population.

If you want to see what's out there, travel agents are awesome for this. I wouldn't be surprised if there was agents specifically geared to this kind of vacation planning. They really aren't that much more expensive and can end up showing you options you might never have thought of.
posted by Blisterlips at 2:07 PM on September 13, 2011

I was going to second group tours, too. I know people who have done biking tours (you bike to see things, like, say Napa valley, and the tour company totes your stuff around for you and actually transports you sometimes). Is there a largish city nearby that might offer these types of things?
posted by dpx.mfx at 2:10 PM on September 13, 2011

Maybe check out a local senior citizen centers in his town, they have activities like exercise classes and other activities depending on location.

My mother-in-law is single and and in her early 70's and has benefited greatly from having an exercise class to go to twice a week at her local senior center for both the exercise and something to get her out of the house more often!
posted by blacktshirtandjeans at 2:20 PM on September 13, 2011

My parents do the snowbird thing from rural Iowa down to Arizona. I poo-pooed it because I thought it was stupid but even I will admit it has been wonderful for my parents. You know how high school and college is set up so you can participate in tons of activities and meet lots of people? Well, the motorhome park where they stay is like this but for old farts. And there is a lot of different kinds of entertainment to be had. My mom joined water aerobics and chorus, my aunt goes on birding trips in the area, my uncle visits old car junk yards, and my dad plays golf and pickleball. They apparently also used to drink moonshine with their neighbors but the guy from South Dakota has his source busted. Maybe not an all-winter activity for your dad but it would be a fun vacation.
posted by Foam Pants at 2:21 PM on September 13, 2011

He might be find the Costa Rican rain forests interesting. CR has a relatively organised bus system, lots of guesthouses, and depending on how adventurous he is, he can continue up to Nicaragua and Honduras. He'd meet a lot of people if he's backpacking and 70s is not that old.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 2:41 PM on September 13, 2011

If he's a lecturing academic, isn't working on a publication a possibility?
posted by ouke at 3:07 PM on September 13, 2011

Best answer: Nthing the Elderhostel recommendations. My dad used to really enjoy those.
posted by bricoleur at 3:43 PM on September 13, 2011

My dad is the same age as yours. After moving to Arizona for semi-retirement he joined the Sierra Club and starting going to their group outings. Some events are local and some involve travel. He's had a lot of fun; in fact his met his last two girlfriends that way. I don't know if they have senior-specific groups, but your dad could possibly start one if that's what he's looking for. REI is also a good option; they have a classes and outing groups as well.
posted by hydrophonic at 4:14 PM on September 13, 2011

The elder-oriented groups & trips are nice, but he probably would enjoy seeing SOMEBODY other than other oldsters sometimes! If my previous suggestion of reading to kids in schools & libraries is too sedentary for him, one way to keep the outdoors in your aging outdoorsman might be volunteering for the educational programs at parks: many of them run tours and and classes and such to teach kids about the local flora and fauna.
posted by easily confused at 4:55 PM on September 13, 2011

Best answer: I met some people on a Road Scholar tour of southern Utah this spring, and they seemed to be having a good time. There was a geologist with them to explain all the rocks they were seeing.

This is the page for Utah. This one involves a tutoring component in February down by the AZ border.
posted by BlooPen at 7:56 PM on September 13, 2011

Best answer: My 77 year old mother often goes on Road Scholar (formerly Elderhostel) trips and loves them, so add another vote for that reccommendation.
posted by TedW at 7:52 AM on September 14, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks for the recommendations for Elderhostel/Road Scholar. That is just what we were looking for.
posted by procrastination at 12:37 PM on October 14, 2011

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