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The grey gap year: taking a career break in your 50s and 60s

The gap year is something that is often associated with millennials and school leavers who want to enjoy a break ahead of starting their careers. It’s a chance to see new places, learn new skills and experience different cultures before their lives become weighed down by the responsibilities of adulthood.  However, with those responsibilities typically lessening in our 50s and 60s, some people are now realising that it can be a great time to take a much-needed break and are embarking on what is known as a ‘grey gap year.’   

It may be that you are due a sabbatical, fancy a year away from the office or simply want more time to spend with your children before they fly the nest. Whatever the reason, should the opportunity to take time off from work come up for you, we’ve put together a list of some of the most enriching, adventurous and fun things you could do with your well-earned break.  

Grey gap year

Feed your wanderlust  

When taking a grey gap year; or any type of gap year, travelling is often the most popular choice and typically there’s a destination for everybody, whether you want to relax or embark on an adventure. Australia and New Zealand are considered to be very safe destinations, so they are ideal places to visit if you want to be assured of a trouble-free trip. Japan is popular for over 50s with its high tech and modern metropolis yet historic towns and cities offering a wide variety of sights to explore.   

Adventures aren’t for everyone though and if you would rather sit back and relax, perhaps a cruise would be more your thing for your grey gap year. Cruises are not only one of the easiest ways to visit multiple countries – they’re stress free, all-inclusive and a great opportunity to meet new people.   

If you have a particular hobby you can’t seem to put down, there might even be a themed cruise ship for you. If you haven’t heard, you can now hop on a chartered cruise ship and join like-minded enthusiasts in an immersive themed experience. From arts and crafts to fitness and food, cruise themes come in all shapes and sizes, so you have every chance of finding one that gives you the opportunity to truly indulge your passion.  

Take a new hobby  

Speaking of hobbies, if you’ve always wanted to learn something new but never found the time, now’s your chance! Why not use your grey gap year to master a new skill? Tai chi or an activity such as swimming are great ways to use your sabbatical to improve your health and fitness. If you are looking to take up yoga, perhaps book a yoga retreat for beginners for an intensive learning experience and an opportunity to meet yogis to practise with. 

Learn a new language  

Whether you want to enrich your holiday experiences or open yourself up to new career opportunities, learning a new language can be an incredibly worthwhile endeavour. Whether you decide to pack your bags and learn among the native tongue or take up a few classes closer to home – we’ve listed the top three languages to learn and why.  

Our top pick is Spanish as it’s in the top five most commonly spoken languages in the world, valuable to business deals and relatively easy to pick up. With immersive study it generally takes about 6 months to reach conversational fluency.   

This may not be an obvious one but becoming bilingual in Japanese might be for you. With over 125 million speakers and a strong economic force, learning this language could have its benefits. Either learn at home or take the more immersive route and learn abroad. You could even practise with your favourite karaoke tunes!   

Last but not least – Portuguese can give you a leg up in science, education, trade and diplomacy as Brazil boasts the largest economic market in Latin America. As a language that is spoken by around 260 million people in ten different countries from Brazil to Mozambique, you should find there are plenty of opportunities to use it.  


With so many great causes at home and abroad, your skills and experience could prove invaluable to those in need, be it out working in a field or learning in a classroom. You may even find free accommodation in exchange for voluntary work, so this particular gap year experience doesn’t necessarily have to cost you.  

Learn how to sail 

Even if you think you’re something of a land lubber, why not challenge yourself with a course in crewing or skippering aboard a yacht in the Mediterranean or anywhere else that takes your fancy? There are many companies offering training for people of all abilities and hundreds of courses to choose from, ranging from budget to elite, on the British coast or in warmer climes. Get searching online and there’s bound to be something to get you going to wherever you want to be. 

Take a degree 

It’s never too late to expand your knowledge and mature students are welcomed at universities all over the UK, with some such as Birkbeck College, University of London, and Open University; with its headquarters in Milton Keynes, probably the best known for their focus on adult higher education.  

This could lead to the start of a new career, a move to help you climb up the ladder within your current vocation, or simply a hugely rewarding exercise in learning something new.  

You might even expand on your existing undergraduate knowledge by applying to do a Masters or a PhD. Or you could apply to study for your first undergraduate degree.   

Whatever you decide to do, learning new things is rarely a waste of time. Once you graduate, you, your partner and any other family will be extremely proud of you as you stroll around in your gown and mortar board! 

Write your story

This may seem like a challenge, but the simple truth is to become a writer, you just need to write! In the process you’ll rediscover yourself as it’s a very introspective and thoughtful activity. You could write about your life journey or what you feel passionate about. When it’s something you love, it won’t feel like work. So, why let all these wonderful stories stay with you, share it with the world and make some extra money through self-publishing your book.  

If you still can’t decide what kind of grey gap year is the one for you, who says you can’t do it all? Set off on your travels, try new activities, stay with the locals and learn a new language; all as part of the same experience. And then return home to write your story!  

Whatever your grey gap year looks like, it’s a good idea to draw up a budget and maybe even think about putting aside some savings to help manage the costs of a year-long sabbatical. Check out our range of fixed rate and easy access savings accounts and take those first steps towards planning your gap year adventure!  

*Please note that Paragon does not receive any income or commission, nor does it endorse any of the websites mentioned. Paragon does not guarantee the amount of money any of these options could earn. Any fees quoted were correct at time going to press.

Paragon Bank PLC is authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority. Registered in England number 05390593. Registered office 51 Homer Road, Solihull, West Midlands B91 3QJ. Paragon Bank PLC is registered on the Financial Services Register under the firm reference number 604551