Older and Retired Adults Find Golden Opportunities at Georgia State Parks

Fri, 06/22/2007 - 12:43pm
By: The Citizen

Georgia (June 2007) – In 2006 the “Baby Boomer” generation started hitting their sixties and many members of this influential group have begun to retire.

According to a Del Webb Baby Boomer Survey, the top three interests for retirement activities are spending time with loved ones (42 %), exercising more (42 %) and volunteering (37 %).

Georgia State Parks and Historic Sites can fulfill seniors’ and retirees’ emotional, physical and philanthropic needs.

Boomers currently represent 28 % of the U.S. population and represent almost half of the family travel market.

An exponentially growing trend within this travel market is “Grandtravel,” where grandparents and grandkids vacation together without the parents.

Grandparents are looking to bond with their grandkids and are seeking out enriching cultural experiences such as the educational resources offered at historic sites.

At Georgia State Historic Sites, visitors can enjoy events and tours at presidential homes, ancient Indian mounds, Revolutionary War forts, Civil War battlefields and stately plantations.

From living history demonstrations to battle reenactments, these sites offer an enlightening look into the past, while providing lasting memories from the experience.

Another exciting option for “Grandtravel” is the SAM Shortline Excursion Train, where a day’s itinerary may include stops where visitors can explore nearby attractions such as former President Jimmy Carter’s boyhood home and campaign headquarters, The Rural Telephone Museum, Habitat for Humanity’s Global Village and Georgia Veterans State Park.

Mature adults are also now enjoying healthier lives and are more physically active than previous generations.

Georgia State Parks & Historic Sites offer a wide variety of recreational opportunities for all fitness levels with activities such as boating, fishing, swimming, birding, hiking and even golf.

Although the rates are already a bargain, seniors who are 62 and older receive discount such as 50 % off an Annual ParkPass, 20 % off campsite rates, lodge rooms and golf green fees, and $20 off Friends of Georgia State Parks & Historic Sites memberships.

A couple of parks host programs that are specifically designed for older visitors.

Seniors at Tallulah Gorge State Park, in Tallulah Falls, experience the great outdoors, learn about our state’s rich history and participate in recreational activities as they work toward earning a Senior Ranger badge.

After attending three classes on history, wildlife, wildflowers/plants and then joining the park for an excursion, such as canoeing, visitors will receive a merit badge and hat.

There is no fee for this program and the next classes are expected to begin in the fall. For more information, call Tallulah Gorge at (706) 754-7981.

Outdoor enthusiasts will enjoy the Golden Years Hiking Club at Sweetwater Creek State Park, in Lithia Springs.

The group meets each Wednesday at 7 a.m. for a moderate ranger-led hike along a wooded trail to the ruins of the New Manchester Manufacturing Company, a textile mill that burned during the Civil War. The cost is $2. For more information, call Sweetwater Creek at (770) 732-5871.

A popular mode of travel for boomers is recreational vehicles (RVs). Georgia state park camping facilities provide a complete “outdoor resort” experience with campsite amenities such as hot showers, electrical outlets, grills and picnic tables. Guests can enjoy the great outdoors in their home away from home in some of the state’s most scenic locales from the mountains to the coast.

Some retirees are also looking to give back to the community through volunteerism. Georgia State Parks & Historic Sites offer many opportunities for seniors to get involved, allowing them to keep their minds sharp, improve their health by staying active and interact with others.

In fact, a majority of the current park volunteer force is comprised of those over the age of 55. One job coveted by many is that of a campground host. In exchange for a free campsite and utilities, campground hosts volunteer to meet and greet arriving campers, offer check-in assistance, perform minor maintenance tasks and meet visitors from all over the world. Hosts serve for a minimum of two months up to a maximum of six months.

Additional volunteer opportunities include assisting with events, performing living history demonstrations, leading programming, becoming a conductor as a Train Car Host with SAM Shortline, staffing visitor centers, joining a local Friends of State Parks chapter and so much more.

“Seniors who are involved in our volunteer programs are so passionate. They do it because they love it,” said Lynn Barfield, Volunteer Coordinator. “It is so humbling for those of us who work here.”

The Georgia Department of Natural Resources operates the Georgia State Parks system. From the north Georgia mountains to the Colonial Coast, 48 parks and 15 historic sites are scattered throughout the state’s most scenic locales. Natural environments, comfortable lodging, affordable rates and exciting recreational activities await guests year-round.

For more information or reservations, call (800) 864-7275 or visit www.GeorgiaStateParks.org. For more information on volunteer opportunities, visit the website or contact Lynn Barfield, Volunteer Coordinator at (404) 656-6533 or lynn_barfield@dnr.state.ga.us.
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