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About Road Scholar/Elderhostel

Road Scholar is the new name for the programs of Elderhostel, Inc., a not-for-profit organization founded in 1975 to provide lifelong learning opportunities at a remarkable value for adults.

Elderhostel was founded by two unlikely collaborators - Marty Knowlton, a world-traveling, free-spirited social activist and former educator, and David Bianco, a highly organized university administrator.

Knowlton had recently returned from a four-year walking tour of Europe, carrying only a backpack of bare essentials and staying in youth hostels. He was impressed by the youth hostel concept, with its safe, inexpensive lodgings and opportunities to meet fellow travelers. Knowlton was also taken with institutions in Scandinavia, called folk schools. There, he saw older adults handing down age-old traditions - folk art, music, lore and dance - to younger generations

Seeing Europeans in their 60s, 70s, 80s and 90’s playing an active and positive role in their communities made Knowlton wonder why their American counterparts didn’t have a similar opportunity to remain active after retirement. And, why not give them continued opportunities to learn as well?

Back in the U.S., Knowlton shared stories of his travels with Bianco, then director of residential life at the University of New Hampshire. Why should older Americans be expected to disappear quietly into a mundane retirement? Bianco, after hearing about Knowlton's experiences, said, in a burst of enthusiasm, “This campus ought not to be having a youth hostel, it ought to be having an elder hostel.” The name was born, and a learning program was conceived that combined stimulating, not-for-credit classes on a wide variety of subjects with comfortable, inexpensive lodgings.

In the summer of 1975, five colleges and universities in New Hampshire offered the first Elderhostel programs to 220 “pioneer” participants. In 1980, based almost entirely on word-of-mouth promotion, more than 20,000 participated in programs in all 50 states and most Canadian provinces. Riding this growing wave of enthusiasm, Elderhostel offered its first international programs in 1981 in Mexico, Great Britain, and Scandinavia. These first International programs were a breakthrough for Elderhostel. Combining education with travel to foster experiential learning, they afforded participants the opportunity to discover the people, culture, environment, and history of the countries visited through in-depth lectures, course-related field trips, cultural excursions, and extracurricular activities.

Today, Elderhostel has evolved as an organization, and so have our programs and participants. Since our first programs at five colleges and universities in New Hampshire in 1975, today's Road Scholar programs include an extraordinary range of topics, formats and locations in every state in the U.S., in more than 90 countries, and aboard ships and sailing vessels on waterways throughout the world. The "hostel" lodging of more than 30 years ago has given way to today's comfortable hotels, inns and other more luxurious yet affordable accommodations. At the heart of today’s organization are the participants, who are lifelong learners engaged in programs that foster camaraderie and a sense of community.

For more information about Road Scholar or to register for a learning adventure, visit www.roadscholar.org