Adrenalin junkies in need of insurance

Images: Flickr / Scott Spiker

Australian Baby Boomers have turned the tourism industry on its head with their new adventure travelling habits. But are the insurance companies keeping up with this change? Joanna Letner investigates.

Today’s Australian Baby Boomers are choosing different and more difficult destinations for their vacations. They’re also deciding to take them a lot earlier than the previous generations. No more retirement travelling, today’s trends show that Baby Boomers take flight almost immediately after the chicks have left the nest. Also no more cruises and fancy European dining, today’s 45 to 65 year olds are getting in and among the culture of unfamiliar countries.

Professor Kaarin Anstey from the Ageing Research Unit at ANU says, “Travel provides older adults the opportunity to keep busy and to connect and engage with others. The mental stimulation of new environments and the associated physical and social activity that travel encompasses provides an important avenue for improving one’s quality of life.”

Campervans are still popular but when you have already explored Australia in your youth, foreign countries become a far more appealing prospect.

“They want new experiences, they don’t want the beaten track,” says David Cravit, vice-president of ZoomerMedia. So why not trek across the Great Wall of China? Go canoeing among the islands of Indonesia? Hike through the mountainous regions of Peru to Machu Picchu?

There are actually quite a few excuses boomers use, but a more important and lesser know fact is, this trend brings to light new and previously unconsidered issues in terms of the safety and health of those young in mind, heart, soul but not so much body. Obviously we’re not looking at baby boomers going sky-diving or bungee-jumping (even though there are a few extreme cases where some insanely bold 50 years old give it a go anyway) – rather those who would jump on a motorcycle without thinking twice  or backpacking through an exotic country without speaking the language well enough.

On a lesser level, boomers also want more interactivity in the travel experience. According to John Stachnik, president of Mayflower Tours, “They don’t want to hear about panning for gold, they want to do it.”

How can you ensure peace of mind when abroad? To put it bluntly you can’t. There are always going to be worries about elderly parents alone at home, or children experimenting with how much damage the house can take while the parents are away. But travel insurance is supposed to be one way of calming worries about what will happen to you while you’re away from home. But unless you’re over the age of 65, having comprehensive insurance isn’t a standard.

One of Australia’s best-known seniors insurers, APIA, delivers above industry standard insurance for this exact market. Above industry standard also means above industry prices. And if you’re choosing to backpack and hike instead of riding in limousines and a la carte dining, then you clearly don’t want to be spending too much on insurance, which in many cases does not even cover all your extraordinary adventure activities.

So where to look? At this point in time you’re not going to find any bargains. The Australian Government isn’t making any promises either, but with enough reason, newer and more comprehensive strategies could come into place. These could include ‘adventurers insurance’; appropriate coverage for people over the age of 45 who aren’t ready to settle for cruises and golfing tours. Rather than supplying the same coverage as that for younger people, just at a higher price, or far too comprehensive protection like that for over 75s, a medium choice for our adventurous boomers would be more appropriate. Hospital cover – not for shattered hipbones, but for torn ligaments from that marathon over the Great Wall of China. These people aren’t old and frail yet and they clearly have plenty of life still in them. And it’s great to see this new generation of travellers experimenting with fun, adventurous ways of holidaying and more daring destinations, and showing how youth can be maintained throughout the years.

According to the Association of Travel Marketing Executives, “Boomers consider travel a necessity, not a luxury” and with travelling so deeply interwoven into their lifestyles since such a younger age (yes I am referring to the crazy 80s) what is more important than protecting the people who are currently seen as the backbone of the tourism industry? After a quick survey of 30 baby boomers, it became clear that many saw travel insurance as necessary but a terrible hassle. Since travel insurance is in fact a form of protection for people going abroad, it shouldn’t be seen as a difficulty by any holidaymakers.

Joanna Letner

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