Monday, June 21, 2010

Farewell, Elderhostel!

The paid folk working for Elderhostel were getting worried. The average age of participants in their programs kept rising.

Commonsense should have told them that this was inevitable, for several reasons:

1. Educated middle-class Americans have been living longer, and aging more slowly. These are the people who have supported Elderhostel programs.

2. Many folk enjoy their first Elderhostel program, and then attend other sessions as they age.

3. Generally speaking, the average attender has prospered, and can afford to attend more sessions in retirement.

That is my totally non-scientific analysis. The paid staff began to be worried, and they sought to attract more folk in their 50s and 60s. How to do this? Why, hire an expensive consultant firm, of course.

What did these well-paid visionaries come up with? "We have a bad name. These people don't want to be thought of as 'elderly', so we must avoid any reference to 'elder' at all costs."

About a year ago, these brainy thinkers coined a word . When Barbara and I attended an Elderhostel program in the Monterey area last fall, the new name was revealed to us: "Exploritas". None of us liked that name, and we expressed our feelings vividly in our evaluation forms. I presume that many other otherwise happy Elderhostelers did the same thing in other parts of the country. Back to the drawing board, then.

Recently, we received a rather lame letter, indicating that a "small travel company" had sued to stop the use of "Exploritas". (The name of the other company wasn't given, but I'll bet it was "The Explorers Club", which runs small-group travel.) The letter we received explained that, although "Exploritas" had been carefully checked out by lawyers, and had been properly trademarked, the former Elderhostel management had decided to back off, although it was clearly in its rights to retain the name. They did not wish to cause any "confusion".


Having been let off the hook for a lousy choice, the management decided to come up with another name. In future, participants are to be known as "Road Scholars"...

Ugh! I gritted my teeth when I saw this, in part because it is another assault on the primary meaning of the word "scholar". Moreover, I abhor the pun. I can imagine the new team of wealthy consultants giggling when this name came up. (Yes, it's funny. You might also say that it could be just as"confusing" as the banished "Exploritas")

I am now wondering whether the other shoe will drop. Will we be hearing from Rhodes House in Oxford? Will the legions of distinguished former Rhodes Scholars rise up in arms? If the name remains, will it actually attract younger participants? Only the future will tell.

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