Taking Trips That Mean Something 「道路學者」平均70歲！成年旅客新趨勢：有意義的旅行
Carol Sullivan awoke recently in Cuenca, Ecuador, excited for the day ahead. She was in the second week of her study abroad experience, and after Spanish class, she and her fellow students were going to the local market to buy dinner ingredients and practice their new language skills.
"The local women may be aghast at how little we know but are very willing to let us try," Sullivan said. She and her husband, Terry, who is also her classmate, are in their early 70s.The Sullivans are part of a trend among adult travelers, who show a growing interest in going to class, volunteering or working abroad as part of their experience.
Older travelers often want to continue to learn and have an impact on the world, said Andrew Gordon, who founded the company Diversity Abroad 12 years ago. "They want their travel to have meaning," he said. Gordon's company connects and does advocacy work for nontraditional students who want to study overseas.
Road Scholar, which organized the Sullivans' program, began as an organization offering not-for-credit classes on university campuses for adults age 60 and over. Now it offers what it calls educational travel adventures worldwide. Travelers may focus on a particular ecosystem they are visiting, attend class on a college campus or, in a twist on the Semester at Sea concept, spend 115 days on an ocean liner circling the globe with experts delving into destinations' histories and cultures. All adults are welcomed, but the audience typically skews older and the average age of a "road scholar" is 70.
The organization is a nonprofit and offers family caregiver grants and other scholarships.
JoAnn Bell, the senior vice president of program development at Road Scholar, said that adults studying abroad, like their college-age counterparts, value the time in a foreign country's culture as much or more than academic instruction.
"We had seen a decline in enrollment for programs heavily weighted to classroom time," Bell said. "People want to get out and experience the country for themselves." Stopping for a croissant and chatting with the neighborhood cafe owner every morning on the way to class was just as important as the class, she said.
There was a buzz as some two dozen concertgoers in silk scarves and sparkling jewels arrived with the help of wheelchairs, walkers and canes, and took their seats in the ornate, hardwood-floor concert hall of Milan's Rest Home for Musicians, known as Casa Verdi, which is run by the Giuseppe Verdi Foundation.
A hush fell, as two musicians in evening dress took up their positions behind two golden harps. The room filled with shimmering music by Debussy. The audience was rapt.
"Bravo," murmured Luisa Mandelli, a soprano who sang with Maria Callas at La Scala in Milan. Then she cocked her head in dismay: Two seats away, a nattily-dressed tenor in a black suit and tie had begun snoring gently. "He's 98," whispered Mandelli, who is 95. She leaned over and slapped her former colleague's knee.
Mandelli is one of 60 older musicians living in Casa Verdi, a sumptuous neo-Gothic mansion built in central Milan by Verdi. Completed in 1899, the building was created as a sanctuary for musicians who found themselves poverty-stricken in old age, "Old singers not favored by fortune, or who, when they were young, did not possess the virtue of saving," as Verdi wrote in a letter at the time.
Nowadays, pensions and social security have reduced the economic necessity of a refuge like this, said Roberto Ruozi, president of the Giuseppe Verdi Foundation, which uses investments made with the royalties from the composer's operas to fund the rest home. Residents pay on a sliding scale, according to their means.
Nonetheless, Casa Verdi is inundated each year with applications from composers, conductors, singers, orchestral players, music teachers and anyone else who has "exercised the art of music as a profession," as the foundation's website puts it. Once applicants establish their professional bona fides, Casa Verdi's board makes choices based on who they think will be a good fit.
The successful applicants get to spend their last years in a place where, in addition to room, board and medical treatment, they have access to concerts, music rooms, 15 pianos, a large organ, harps, drum sets and the company of their peers.
"Now, the majority of our clients are not in very bad economic condition, but wish to continue to play, and be involved with, music," Ruozi said. Casa Verdi's talented clientele have the same needs as other old people, with some exceptions, he added: "First, they need music. Second, they want to be treated not as common guests, but as special guests — as a star." Ruozi sighed. "We have 60 old musicians and 60 stars."