Like many people worldwide, Americans adore travel. From our love affair with cars to our wide selection of cruise ships, our desire to see the world—or just more of the U.S.—isn’t going anywhere. And older adults are no different than younger ones when it comes to a thirst for travel. In fact, visiting different places may have important benefits for those who are otherwise homebound. It can decrease their sense of isolation, increase their life satisfaction, and even provide mental stimulation.
But traveling with seniors can come with a great many logistical challenges. Let’s explore how you can effectively navigate with seniors and with as little stress as possible.
Top Travel Tips for Older Adults
Choose a Central Coordinator
If your loved one is visiting friends or family members, it’s usually best to choose a “central coordinator.” This may be your loved one, but more likely it will be you or a relative they’re visiting. The central coordinator is the one who will make hotel reservations, book flights, and be aware of arrival, check-out, and departure times.
Book the Right Flight
It’s always preferable to book a non-stop flight when traveling, but for older adults, this can be especially important. Travel tends to exhaust even the healthiest among us and older adults may find themselves tiring quickly trying to make it from one flight to the next. Although it may mean paying a bit more, direct flights often make up for this in time and stress reduction alone.
A big concern for older adults while traveling is managing their medications.[1. “TSA Travel Tips Tuesday – Traveling With Medication,” September 24, 2013, https://blog.tsa.gov/2013/09/tsa-travel-tips-tuesday-traveling-with.html] Make sure you bring enough for the duration of their stay—plus extra in case something happens to the original dosages. If you’re flying, it’s best to keep prescriptions in a carry-on bag, just in case their luggage is lost. If you’re going by boat and your loved one has problems with nausea, talk to their physician beforehand about remedies.
Take extra care when it comes to medications that aren’t in pill form. For instance, certain injectable prescriptions need to be kept refrigerated, either until they are first opened, or until the prescription is used up completely. To complicate matters even further, needles or syringes for their application may be required.
These items may have to be clearly labeled, or be stored in a separate area on the plane. Liquid medication may be limited as to the type and amount you can bring. Although the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulates some of these things[2. “Regulations and Policies,” https://www.faa.gov/regulations_policies/], other policies are set by the individual airlines themselves. When in doubt, always check with your carrier.
Know the Disability Rules
Many older adults who use walkers, wheelchairs, and other mobility aids fall under the “disabled” policy of airlines, cruise ships, and destination attractions. Make sure you know these important policies in advance, such as which lines to get in and how early to show up.
These days, travel is full of delays, from long lines to weather problems to canceled flights. However, if you’re with an older adult who has physical limitations, plan for extra cushions of time around your activities. This may mean leaving more time to get to and from destinations, planning fewer activities during the day, or going places when there are fewer crowds. Although you won’t be able to pack as many things in as you may like, it’s more important not to wear out your loved one, which can have a negative effect on their health.
Don’t Let Anything Prevent You from Traveling with Seniors
Although certain aspects of traveling with seniors may seem daunting at first, that doesn’t mean you should avoid it. This is especially true in cases of once-in-a-lifetime trips, places the older adult has always wanted to visit, or big family reunions. As long as your loved one’s doctor has given them the okay to travel, use some of the advice above, and get ready to set sail for adventure!
If you are unsure of how to best help an aging loved one, the trained and compassionate staff at the Institute on Aging is here to help you make that decision and gain the best in at-home care for older adults. Contact us to find out more.