At AARP, we’ve always seen travel as a way to incorporate fun and fulfillment into our lives as we get older. It helps us recharge and get in touch with our nation’s heritage and our own.
With so many grandparents living a hundred or more miles from their grandchildren, many are building closer relationships with them by taking them on vacation. According to a new “Grandparents Today” survey from AARP Research, about 40 percent of grandparents say they travel with their grandchildren.
As we move into summer, kids are getting out of school and families are making vacation plans. I would urge you to consider taking your kids, grandkids or other younger family members on a trip to one of America’s historic sites. It could be one of our great national treasures like Mount Rushmore in South Dakota, Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia or Independence Hall in Philadelphia. Or it could be somewhere closer to home, such as the Susan B. Anthony House in Rochester, N.Y., or the Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site in my home state of Alabama.
Traveling can even change your direction in life. During my junior year of college, I left my small town in Alabama and went to Washington, D.C., to work as an intern. I was completely taken with the monuments, museums, historic sites and surrounding Civil War battlefields. I loved learning the backstories about events that took place in and around Washington. The next year, I headed back to Washington to find a job and begin my career. That visit my junior year had a profound influence on me.
That’s the kind of transformative experience young Americans need: I fear a basic understanding of our founding principles and our national heritage is getting lost.
According to findings from the Annenberg Public Policy Center, most Americans cannot name the three branches of government. More than a third cannot name one First Amendment right. Perhaps more alarming, a poll by the American Council of Trustees and Alumni found that 10 percent of college graduates picked Judith Sheindlin as a member of the U.S. Supreme Court. She’s actually TV’s Judge Judy.
As older adults, we can help change this as we have fun with our families, building intergenerational relationships and renewing our own interest in our collective American heritage.
The late Gene Cohen, who founded the Center for Aging, Health and Humanities at the George Washington University, believed that older people serve as “keepers of the culture.” Sharing the experience of visiting historic sites where so much has been won, lost and learned, we begin to understand our nation as it was, and as it can be in the future. Let’s take this journey together. It’ll be fun. And it’ll build stronger bonds within our families and our nation.