Programming: Day Trips
The Path to Adventure
By Kelli Anderson
"The times they are a changin'" is as true a Dylan lyric today as ever it was in the '60s. As aging baby boomers enter what was once a stronghold of the great generation in the senior demographic; with parents more concerned than ever about the safety of their children; and with an economy changing the way we think about almost everything, it is no surprise that programming day trips for recreation is experiencing some changin', too. Programming these short adventures requires more creativity and more organization than ever to keep people signing up for more.
One of the most significant changes in recent years has been the entry of baby boomers into the AARP crowd. Whereas many older seniors tend to gravitate toward the day trip standards of educational trips, cultural excursions and culinary outings, the entry of the baby boomers has meant adding a greater variety to the usual lineup.
"Our seniors are more adventurous," observed Linda Aluise, senior programming coordinator at the Douglas H. Buck Community Recreation Center in Littleton, Colo. "The new 40 is really 70 or even 80 because they are staying active. My tap dance instructor is 80, had knee replacement surgery and was dancing again two weeks later!"
In the City of Round Rock Park and Recreation department in Texas, programming is definitely undergoing a transformation. Although admittedly a majority of their trips involve restaurants (very popular for those who no longer like to cook), theater, bingo and performance/art, their programming now includes longer and more demanding hikes, dancing and, soon, the addition of skydiving.
The change in senior lifestyle is also having an impact, turning many day trips into evening ones. "With the boomers who are more active, I have to look for evening things because some are still working," said Dawn Moonan, recreation program coordinator of nine years with the park and recreation department in Round Rock. "They are looking for fun things to do."
Not only are aging baby boomers typically more fit and active, but in Littleton, Colo., many of those looking for day trips also tend to be single women where women outnumber men 10 to one. This, too, affects the kinds of trips that are offered. "The clientele has shifted," said Skot Latona, SPP in the Carson Nature Center in Littleton. "It used to be more retired couples, but now there are a lot more single or individual women in the 45-to-85 age range that don't like nature travel but are looking for that safer experience with planned details."
There is no doubting, however, that the economy is also having a big impact on the kinds of day trips being offered these days as well as how many.
"I've seen a decline in all the day camps," said Danielle Potter, community recreation manager of award-winning Rockford, Ill. "But we have playgrounds within our neighborhoods for neighborhood-based programming that is under supervision, and our numbers continue to be strong. We are finding that parents who can't afford a $100-a-week program do this."
Potter attributes the community's continued participation in their day trip and day camp programs to understanding the demographic and the location. "When you schedule field trips, think about the economy and your demographic because if people can't afford it, what's the point?"
One way Rockford has helped to reduce costs is to create successful partnerships with local businesses like the nearby waterpark, skating and bowling facilities, local museums and pools to get discounted fees that are, in turn, passed on to their families.
At Conejo Recreation and Park District in Conejo, Calif., day trips are given a financial limit. "Cost is important," said Karen Lindsey, administrator with the district. "We do not charge extra in our summer day camps for field trips, so we generally go to places that the admission is less than $10 unless it is a teen or senior trip."
Keeping costs down is also important, too, for the recreation facility, and making sure that enough of those who sign up show up can be a challenge. "I set up a minimum number of participants to ensure that we don't 'lose' money," Moonan said of their program policy. "And if the trip does not meet the minimum, it will be cancelled." Another strategy some recreational organizations employ is to have all participants pay in advance so that there is more of a commitment to show up.