Horizons - American Express - Spring 2001
Hear the Bugle

Some of our best memories are those of summer camps when days ended with eating s'mores by the campfire. It was a time of good friendships enjoyed in simple, natural settings.

But for many mature men and women those glory days need not be over. "In fact, there is a real rise in camp-like programs for adults," says Nancy Diamond of Boca Raton, Florida, president of Niche Directories, LLC, which publishes grownupcamps.com, a popular Web site for older campers. "Sometimes they go for the nostalgia of a camp experience, but another important reason is their desire to acquire new skills or hone others."

Tennis and golf camps are always popular, and facilities range from the finest hotels and spas that also offer instruction with the top-level pros to more modest college campuses with solid local starts as coaches. Longtime tennis player Seymour Samet, 81, of Ft. Lee, New Jersey, has tried a few tennis camps and finds that most of them work to improve your skills in a pleasant and healthy environment. "For me, it's been 60 years since I first played tennis in high school. What I like about these camps is that there is no age distinction." Everybody simply tries out and gets placed according to abilities. "You get to meet a lot of people in an easygoing atmosphere and it's a lot of fun."

An avid tennis player, 66-year-old grandmother Rita Wessan lives on a golf course at University Park, Florida, and decided to learn how to play. "It's a difficult game to start at my age but I went up to a Vermont golf camp and really immersed myself in it. What do they say? You're not to old to learn something new?"

Contrary to the stereotype, many older campers are highly flexible when it comes to trying new things. "I hear a lot of people say, 'If I don't do it now, when am I going to do it?' " says Nancy Diamond. "My father, in his 80's, and my mother just got back from a rafting adventure."