Jetting into retirement?


A new Research Insight from the DEMAND Centre questions the likelihood of a later-life travel boom amongst those of retirement age.

Have pension, will travel?

We are an ageing society with more and more pensioners blessed with free time and in many cases disposable incomes. Couple this with a perception that travel is an indication of living life to the full in retirement, and we could be looking at a later-life travel boom that will have implications in the battle to reduce CO2 emissions. But there are several assumptions being made here about whether older people have the time, money, desire or ability to travel in their retirement years.

“What I’d like to do when I retire, to see all of England and see the rest of the world” (Research project interviewee).

The research

Researchers from the EUED DEMAND Centre (led by Rosie Day of Birmingham University and Russell Hitchings of UCL) interviewed 60 people, divided into 3 age groups (50-55, 60-69, 75+) about their experiences of, and feelings about, travel, both over the lifecourse and as they moved into later life. The findings were intriguing. While many felt that travel was something that ‘older people’ as a group should ideally do, there were also many respondents who, due to a range of contextual factors had not found themselves following a path of extensive travel.

It was the interviewees who were currently in the lead-up to retirement who were most strongly focussed on the vision of an active, travelling retirement. But whether they will actually live out this vision remains to be seen. They were, for example, quite realistic about potential health issues that meant they should take longer haul trips sooner ‘while they still can’ and taper off to shorter European trips when they were less physically able to cope with long journeys.

For example one respondent said “to travel, really serious travel, I’m not talking about … popping down to Bournemouth but … proper international travel, there’s really that window of about ten years … before your health, or your insurance (goes), or you’re just not so mobile”.

The stay-at-home retirement?

The researchers also raise the question (see DEMAND Research Insight #12) of whether older people feel they are expected to travel to meet perceptions of how to lead a fulfilling later life. It may be that there are other ways for pensioners to live out their retirement ambitions that are cheaper, more appropriate to their physical and economic circumstances, and with less of a carbon footprint.


Read the full Research Insight

Access the academic papers:

Hitchings, R., Venn, S., Day, R (2016) Assumptions about later-life travel and their implications: pushing people around? Ageing and Society

Fox, E., Hitchings, R., Day, R. and Venn, S. 2017. Demanding distances in later life leisure travel Geoforum (available online)

More on the DEMAND Centre on this site.

Read BBC article on the rise of short breaks.