Claire Westdahl is a legacy. The 71-year-old retired nurse-midwife recently took her 10-year-old granddaughter Mae on her first Road Scholar educational adventure, walking in the footsteps of her mother, who took Claire’s then pre-teen son John on his first Road Scholar adventure over 30 years ago.
She recently shared her story to encourage other grandparents to experience the unique joys of educational travel and the pleasures of creating memories with grandchildren.
Claire’s parents, Kenneth and Gertrude McCamman, were considered trailblazers when they enrolled in their first Road Scholar program in the mid-1970s. The not-for-profit educational travel institution was one of the first to focus on learning for adults over 50, and Kenneth and Gertrude understood early on the importance of continuous learning.
“My father was a Shell Oil executive in the 60s and my mother was a homemaker, taking care of five children,” Claire said. “My mom said her idea of a vacation was when she didn’t have to cook. When my dad retired, my parents began traveling in earnest with Road Scholar, planning several trips a year. In fact, whenever they came to visit, it would be around a Road Scholar program, so they never really stayed with us very long; they would stay with us either before or after they’d attended a program. In all, my mother attended about 78 Road Scholar programs before she died.”
Gertrude would have been one of the first generations of women to experience Road Scholar as a part of a couple, as a solo traveler and finally, with her grandchildren on a Grandparent program.
“My mom took my son Jon on his first Road Scholar program to a rodeo in Reno when he was 11 years old,” Claire said. “The thing that I remember most is that she commented on how he interacted with the group and how he emerged as a leader even then. Today, at 35, he’s an entrepreneur with his own business.”
In all, Gertrude had five grandchildren and was able to share her love of Road Scholar with all of them before she passed away.
“My parents always share stories with us about the fantastic people they met on the programs, whether they were other couples or women she met while traveling solo,” Claire said. “After she died, I was clearing out a box of her things and found a bunch of old speeches she had prepared to give for her opening remarks at Road Scholar functions. She really took those speeches seriously.”
Claire and her husband, Robert, took their first of several program as a couple in the late 1990s. They were both still working, not quite empty nesters yet, with one teenager still at home. Claire has continued to travel with Road Scholar even after Robert passed away several years ago.
Claire is now the grandmother of three grandchildren (10, 5 and an infant) and plans to carry on the Road Scholar tradition because of the special memories her mother created with her children.
“Mae is the first grandchild old enough to go on a Grandparent program and it was great to share this experience with her,” Claire said.
“Mae’s mother wasn’t familiar with Road Scholar, so I think it helped that the organization has such a great reputation. I had dinner with Mae and her mother and gave them the 2018 catalog and asked them to talk about choosing their next programs for summer 2018.”
She learned about a new style of community urban living popularized in Denmark called Co-Housing Communities, and decided to start a new life in one of these communities.
“Before I made the decision, I did my research and discovered that 45 percent of Danes over 50 are living in similar communities,” she said.
“Similar to a co-op, you have to meet the people in advance and if accepted, you’re expected to participate in a community, not just stay in your home behind closed doors. The idea is to reduce the risk of social isolation experienced by many people as they age. These communities are attempting to shift the paradigm of how people age in this country; just like Road Scholar did 40 years ago.”
Do you like to travel with your grandkids? What is the best trip that you can remember taking with your grandchildren? What made it so special? Let’s start a conversation!
To learn more about Road Scholar’s Grandparent learning adventures, please visit their website at: www.roadscholar.org/grandparent