The “grey” gap year finally comes of age

Grey Gap Year for Over 50s

House sitting and extended travel for over 50's

Back in 2009 a novel was published called "Gap Year for Adults". It's the story of a woman in her 50s who takes time out of her life to move to Provence, in France, for adventure. She left her husband and grown up children to travel.

Sounds like fun, doesn't it? But back in 2009 this was still pretty rare. We knew about the "GapYear", and the "Adult Gap Year", but the "Grey Gap Year" was unusual, though it was clear that something had begun to stir.

In 2010 P&O, the cruise company, ran some research and found that the numbers of people over 50, taking time out of their professional lives to travel, had increased 300% since the previous survey they'd run five years earlier.

We've all heard the apocryphal stories about the widows who choose to travel year-round on a cruise liner because it's cheaper than living in London, or perhaps because they make more friends that way. You've no doubt met people who sell up and travel as house sitters to try something completely new on a budget - indeed you might be that person.

Why take a grey gap year?

Meet Katherine and David, just turned 60, ready for semi-retirement and travel!
Grey gap year for house sitters

Katherine and David, a professional couple from Maidenhead in Berkshire UK, are new to house sitting. Katherine heard about this way of traveling through one of her business networking groups and thought it sounded exactly like what they needed after 35 years of professional lives, raising children, financing them through six and four years at University, and caring for family home and pets.

"While we can enjoy our health and our thirst for life we want to see something of the world. It's time to reconnect and find the things we enjoy doing as a couple, travel is definitely one of those things and we are experts at home and pet care, we've been doing it all our married life!

House sitting offers the chance to get to know a new area from a comfortable base rather than sleeping on overnight buses around all of Australia and the USA as we did when we were students - then we didn't mind the discomfort!

House sitting seems like a great idea to maximize our travel budget and get to know new areas from a local perspective."

We are all living longer

Life expectancy is increasing across the world, with more people living longer. In 2011 women in the UK achieved an average life expectancy of 82.8 years, and men 79 years. That means people are living way beyond the UK state retirement age of 65 years.

Life expectancy table

Table of Life Expectancy - Data from OECD Publications

When the UK tables were first begun in 1841 the life expectancy for women was only 42.2 years, and 40.2 years for men! The dramatically improved expectations are similar, if not better, in many countries where, at, we see "grey gappers" signing up.


So many of us can expect to live longer and healthier lives than our parents and grandparents, but what should we do with our time? Indeed, what do we want to do for the years ahead? Thinking this way, the grey gap year begins to make a great deal of sense.

Advantages of house sitting for the over 50s

Cut the cost of your grey gap year

House sitting is an excellent way to make your travel budget go further, because it minimizes your spend on accommodation costs. The funds you've saved for the gap year can be largely spent on travel expenses and upkeep.

Some house sitters claim it delivers a 75% saving on travel budgets. This is because, even with an affordable AirBnB host you are still spending funds every night you are away from home. That soon mounts up! So, cut out the accommodation cost if you can and it makes more sense.

Grey Gappers on a Grey Gap Year use House Sitting to save money

Dianne and Mike have been house sitting for nearly a year now and plan to extend their grey gap year by creating their own online income streams.

They're taking the TEFL qualification in order to be able to teach English while traveling, they write blogs and Dianne is a qualified travel agent who has taken her business on the road. She reports about her own lived experiences in countries she previously had only hoped to visit.

Authentic travel experiences

What's more, house sitting means you're living in someone's home, in a real neighborhood.

So wherever that might be, whether in Beijing, Alicante, Paris or the suburbs of London, you're not in a neutral hotel environment. You are in a culture immersion experience, and your hosts can guide you to their favorite places for market shopping, delicacies, views of their park-lands or cityscapes.

By living in a home and learning from your hosts you get the inside track. It can be terrific and better than any guidebook.

How to get started as house sitters

If the grey gap year sounds like a good idea and you are planning to take steps in that direction, sign up with a house sitting platform that provides a personal touch. has helped introduce many a new-comer to house sitting, assisting them to build a profile, optimize their online presence, crafting their best experiences in pet and home care for sharing online.

We‘re happy to take time to help you get started and we'll ensure you receive a free ID check on our platform to add credibility. Readers of House Sitting Magazine can benefit from a 50% discount at HouseSitMatch membership. To join, simply click this link and use HousesitMatch Discount Code 50HSMAG

If you are single and over 50 then house sitting can still be an option for you. Take a read here of some solo sitters who are successfully house sitting their way around the world!

guest post - Lamia walker

Lamia Walker is the Founder of HouseSit Match. Her career spans 25 years plus, with quite a few spent in marketing for some wonderful organisations. In 2012 the idea for HouseSitMatch became a thing, over a good curry shared with an Australian friend. The idea so inspired Lamia that she soon left to start an online venture that would turn her virtual quest into an international network reality. Now she runs HouseSitMatch and through this enterprise has made lots of friends all around the world and she still enjoys house sitting.   

Last updated on February 15th, 2021

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