Travel Tales from Edina’s (Senior) Tour Group

With age comes perspective, and perhaps that perspective is best used on the road. Through the Edina Senior Center, Edina seniors have become tourists in their own state, as well as across the country—all without having to find a parking spot.

“Oh my goodness, where haven’t they gone?” says Nicole Gorman, whose role as recreation supervisor at the senior center has her overseeing the trips. Much like the center itself, the trips have become a gathering place for seniors to connect with peers and engage with their community.

Past trips have included holiday light tours of St. Paul, a LaCrosse boat cruise and excursions to local shows at the Guthrie and Chanhassen theaters. Some have even gone grape stomping in Stillwater, visited Leinenkugel Brewery and gone abroad.

“It’s a great way to meet new people and form new friendships,” Gorman says, who sees the trips as an opportunity for seniors to travel to places not always open to the public and without hassle. The most recent trip took them to the Minnesota state capitol, a trip with over 150 participants.

Edina resident Shirley Jones has been going on these trips since shortly after she moved to the area five years ago. A former Texas resident, Jones has been able to relocate closer to her son and explore her new home.

“[The trips] are all-inclusive. I get to learn all of these facts about states and cities that I didn’t know,” says Jones, who appreciates the ease of traveling with a group and getting to know fellow seniors. “They bring you up to the door in rain, snow or shine.”

Most of the participants are returning patrons, according to Gorman. She took over the job from Sue Weigle, who has since started taking the trips after retirement.

“If there was something new that came to the Minn. area, I wanted to get seniors there,” says Weigle, who in her 36-year tenure as recreation supervisor oversaw trips to the east coast, Europe, Canada, presidential libraries and civil war tours to name a few.

Weigle recalls the presidential libraries as particularly special trips because of the nostalgia felt by the participants. “Most of [the seniors] remember that time. It took you back to the '50s,” she says.

“It’s stimulation for the brain. The majority of seniors want to keep their brain and body going,” Weigle says. Weigle recommends eating with different people on each trip. You never know where a connection from the past may be found.

One of Weigle’s favorite trips explored Minneapolis, where the group was able to see the city through the eyes of a tourist. “If we were tourists going to see Minneapolis, where would we go, what would we see?” Weigle says. “We loved it.”

Trips are open to members and non-members of the Edina Senior Center and interested parties can call or drop in to the center to sign up for trips. Information for shorter trips is available in their complementary newsletter, while longer trips are listed on their website.

Weigle will serve as hostess for two of the extended travel opportunities: a trip to Washington, D.C. and Williamsburg at the end of October, and a trip to Duluth and Bayfield in December.

“People always tell me, ‘You know where you should go.’ Usually I can say we’ve been there,” Weigle says with a smile.  

Why are new experiences good for the aging brain?

A recent study from Psychological Science has found new experiences outside of the day-to-day actually do have an impact on the aging brain. With more of our population aging, the study found engaging in new tasks and skills did more for memory than working on word puzzles and maintaining a similar daily lifestyle. Challenge yourself by learning a new hobby or exploring a part of Minn. you haven’t ventured into.