‘Grey gap year’ – House sitting over 50

10 Jun, 2023

‘Grey gap year’ – House sitting over 50

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We are often asked at HouseSit Match what are the chances of being selected as house sitters if your house sitting over 50, some even declare they are trying a grey gap year! We always say the chances of securing a house sit are very good indeed, this is true. Not only is the trend for travelling by house sitting growing around the world.

The popularity of travel among 50+ professionals wanting to see the world while fit and healthy, is also growing significantly.

House sitting over 50 in a grey gap year

grey gap year
Dianne & Mike – Taking time out to travel & see the world

What is a grey gap year?

So a Grey Gap Year is definitely becoming a reality people are planning for, and is growing markedly in popularity. What is it and why is this gaining popularity now?

The first appearance of the notion online was in the title a book written by Anne Sanders and published 2009. ‘Gap year for adults,’ tells of a woman who takes time out to travel to France for adventure. Her children grown she leaves her husband temporarily to try something new. She was over 50!

In 2010 P&O the cruise firm published research that showed a 300% increase in over 50s taking a year out to travel, whether they were retired or not. ‘Grey gap years’ or temporarily taking time out of your professional and personal life in middle age became a ‘thing’.

Why are so many people trying house sitting over 50 as part of a this working gap trip?

There are many reasons why housesitting appeals to the over 50s. Perhaps there is a desire to do more and to do it in an affordable fashion while on a fixed budget? Housesitting provides that opportunity, to exchange your experience in home and pet care for free accommodation. It’s a fair deal and a rewarding one. Many people house sitting over fifty also want more from their travel experiences.

The 100 Year Life

A book published in 2016 by Professors Lynda Gratton and Andrew Scott  entitled ‘The 100 year life: Living and Working in an Age of Longevity’ recently discussed the notion of the 100 Year Life as an expected time frame for many people born within this decade.

Professor Scott says: “For the last two centuries, life expectancy has risen by around three years every decade. That adds up to a lot more time, approximately eight hours a day extra over a lifetime. As a result, the three stages of work, education and retirement as we know them will no longer exist.

In The 100-Year Life: Living and Working in an Age of Longevity, we start to explore what will come in its place.

“The key to a happy and successful 100-year life will rest in how we use the extra time we have. A longer life means we will all have to work longer. Retiring at 65 will not be an option unless we are able to save 25% of our income per year.

That’s a long stretch; periods of rejuvenation, re-training and re-creation will be necessary.”

Extended Life Expectancy

This brings into focus the prospect many people reflect on today of an extended life expectancy. A long working career must flex and vary if we are to enjoy fruitful and productive working lives; so a grey gap year is not a bad notion to break up the 45 years we commit to working.

It is no surprise then that so many people after a long professional life of corporate travel can create a desire for authentic travel experiences outside of the big chain hotel groups and hostels.

Authentic travel

Whatever age we are, the thought of travelling in an authentic way appeals to many people. Living like a local and getting close to the reality of the new location. Seeing the very best of what the place we are visiting has to offer, has a common a draw.

House sitting means you need to remain local to your assigned property and pets, and in that need to stay in the locale comes a great advantage in being able to spend time learning about and absorbing the local area, enjoying its features. And house sitting fits very well with time off work later on in life because the cost is so manageable whether you want a grey gap year at any time or a gap year for over 60s.

house sitting over fifty
Shopping in local markets helps us realise the authentic travel experience

Freedom in travel as a house sitter

A large number of our house sitters over 50 are empty-nesters and love the sense of freedom that travelling on whim and following the next house sit assignment gives them.  On HouseSitMatch.com we have an increasing number of house sitters who find great joy in being led in their journey by their next assignment.

Some people house sitting over 50 like that sense of discovery and serendipity after years of professional work regulated by calendars and corporate schedules. The house sitter life can be quite liberating.

One week caring for family pets in a comfortable home, the next managing a vegetable garden to ensure the crop is harvested while the owners are away. It can be a rich a varied life as a house sitter.

For some it’s the pets
For others gardening is a real pleasure

Taste of retirement travel

As many of us wrestle with retirement plan calculators, state pension calculators and equity release programmes considering our next move, some may already be mortgage free and ready to try out different forms of retirement travel ahead of our planned retirement age.

We may be lucky enough to plan a big trip to the other side of the world to celebrate a retirement in the family, enjoying a little luxury and a taste of a very different life while we are away. But will holidays like that be sustainable for many years given that our life expectancy has significantly increased in recent years?

Why house sitting over 50 now?

grey gap year
It’s fun to coincide retirement with a long trip or holiday

Increased life expectancy

Life expectancy is growing with more people living longer, in 2011 women achieved an average life expectancy of 82.8 years in the UK and men to 79 years both are way beyond the current retirement age of 65 years.  When the UK tables were first begun, the life expectancy for women was 42.2 years and for men 40.2 years.

The advances and benefits in widely available healthcare and dramatically improved living conditions are reflected in our advances in quality of life and longevity.

So many of us can expect to live longer and healthier lives than our ancestors or our parents and grandparents. Therefore, what should we do with our time? Indeed, what do we want to do for the years ahead of us. The grey gap year suddenly seems like a pretty good idea. It gives you the opportunity to explore travel opportunities by offering your experience and services in exchange for accommodation.

So house sitting can help it means you can go further and travel for longer on a fixed budget.

The rise of the Sharing Economy

In the last few decades the increasing traction gained by companies operating in ‘the sharing economy‘ has increased the possibilities for travel around the world, offering affordable travel options and collaborative experiences that enable us to choose from a wide range of authentic travel experiences.

Peer to peer collaboration has been enabled and powered by the internet, broadband speeds and access to computers.

With entrepreneurs quick to capitalise on these innovations companies like AirBnB offering accommodation at B&B prices the world over, Liftshare offering collaborative cost based travel solutions, and house sitting platforms like Housesit Match offering free accommodation the world over there has never been a better time to take a grey gap year.

What do we advise about choosing to take a ‘grey gap year’ at HouseSitMatch?

Go for it! However, prepare as with any long term plan make sure you do your research. In terms of what you might need, where you want to go and how you can get there on budget. Take out travel insurance, with good health cover.

Here are our Top 5 Tips:

  1. Set a budget – think £10-25 per day depending on what you want to do. This is very possible with house sitting (travel inc.)
  2. Prioritise where you want to visit in your own country or abroad. Therefore, make a list of your top 50 things to do while travelling
  3. Do some research on how you can travel and your preferred modes of transport
  4. Between housesits consider affordable options like University Accommodation, usually well located with amenities on-site
  5. Sign up for a house sitting platform like HouseSitMatch.com – they are not expensive and give you options for free accommodation in a comfortable home in exchange for house-sitting and pet-sitting.

So why not go house sitting over 50. Take time out and give it a go!

To start your house sitting adventure or to find your house and pet sitting solution register with HouseSitMatch:


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Founder and Director of HouseSitMatch - I'm a hands-on Admin on the site. Please ask any questions and as soon as I can I'll happily answer and assist where I can.

1 comment

  1. […] If you’d like to read more about the “Grey Gap Year”, take a read of this HouseSitMatch article: https://www.housesitmatch.com/blog/grey-gap-year-house-sitting-over-50/ […]

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