The Ageless Traveler: An Essential Guide to Traveling with an Older Adult
By Adriane Berg, NABBW’s Associate for Successful Aging
In anticipation of the upcoming podcast The Ageless Traveler: Lifelong Travel Made Easy, I discovered essential resources for traveling with an older adult. Happy travels.
The idea of inter-generational travel conjures up thoughts of warm family closeness, laughing together, and newly created shared memories. But the pitfalls and dangers of traveling with an older adult are rarely considered until a problem arises.
Fortunately, new and exciting resources make it easy to preplan and travel with your parents or older loved ones, even ones with mild dementia, frailty, or a mobility problem. It just takes a little forethought and know-how.
I have traveled with 80 and 90-year-olds and danced with hundred-year-olds that needed no assistance. They were assisting their younger colleagues! But, if your loved one has any issue with Activities of Daily Living (ADLs), these do not disappear while on a trip. These conditions do not take a vacation but must not spoil or prevent yours.
- Feeding oneself
- Bathing and cleaning
- Cognitive ability
Food and medication
Ensure there is enough medication to last the trip and be fully aware of what medication or food contraindications may exist. For example, exotic foods may interfere with medications. If you cruise, many meals are offered on the buffet with great freedom of choice. The grapefruit or highly spiced shrimp may be the wrong gastric or medication management ingredient.
Or new medicates taken to ward off a cold rash or seasickness may be contraindicated with drugs your loved one already takes, especially if they take blood thinners. Know what they are taking and ask their pharmacy if food or over-the-counter medications should be avoided.
The Americans with Disabilities Act, ADA, requires no travel discrimination and that free wheelchairs and other access be available at airports and train stations. However, if you are transporting your chair or another device, like a portable commode, there is no guarantee that it will arrive safely. To discover the best ways to pack, fold and meet with baggage handlers, check out the Society for Accessible Travel and Hospitality, www.SATH.org, and visit the Department of Transportation’s site. DOT.gov and know your rights.
Cruising is designed for the less mobile Traveler and has created a breakthrough by offering mobility aids, oxygen, unique beds, commodes, and other helpful equipment. One of the companies from which many cruise ships rent is Special Needs at Sea. This company will also rent directly to you for trips you create on your own, on or off the water.
Special Needs at Sea also offers a curriculum for travel agents interested in the disabled Traveler. Although this is a vastly different group than the older adult, the willingness of these agents to work outside the box is inspiring.
Professional Healthcare aids
Depending on your budget, you might find it wise to have a professional aid accompany you on the trip. If you have never helped an older adult in or out of a chair, you do not know what you are in for when you travel. Spend a few days as a family Caregiver before you undertake to be a travel companion.
Local Home Health aide companies may be available to refer you to their franchisees that offer travel companion care. For example, Karen Tucker of First Light Orlando-Winter Park provides companions for Disney and Sea World trips or any other Orlando escape.
Trip and Health Insurance
Do not get caught up in concerns that spill over into anxiety for the older adult. Intergenerational trips are enjoyable and can be the year’s highlight for all. It is simply that you must acknowledge that things can happen. Consider two kinds of insurance: trip insurance that allows you to cancel the trip anytime and health coverage. Collette Tours, one of the largest and most experienced tour packagers, allows you to cancel for any reason under the terms of their trip insurance policy, even up to the day of the trip. Allianz offers medical coverage, trip interruption coverage, emergency medical evacuation coverage, and 24/7 travel assistance services. Med Jet will fly you to any hospital or health facility you choose.
Please do not wear older people out or leave them bored.
Often the only difference between successful travel and disaster is the trip’s pace. Getting on and off a tour bus with impatient strangers looking on, one-night stays in hotels, and rushed meals can ruin everyone’s enjoyable time and increase the possibility of fatigue. We tend to create hectic vacations in our hectic lives, squeezing in every moment of sightseeing, eating, and sport. Try a slow vacation with an elder who requires a slower pace, and you might smell more roses yourself.
Another subtle issue is the need for rest and even naps. If you are interested in a full day of golf and your loved one cannot play the whole course, you will need a plan for their entertainment while you hack away. Too often, older adults spend a family vacation rocking on a Bed and Breakfast porch, sitting in a resort lobby, or even in their room where they are truly bored. Older adults have a right not just to sit out the day while others play; not every activity has to be simultaneously participated in by all.
Your best friend is the concierge. They can provide a local person or, in some cases, a staff member who can suggest and implement activities suitable for the older adult. It might be a drive around town or a visit to the museum while you mountain bike.
The key here is honest communication between the older adult and everyone traveling with them to ensure they all understand and accept limitations.
At The Ageless Traveler, lifelong travel is made easy we are committed to everyone being able to travel with joy and safety anywhere in the world if they wish. In making a study of what works, we have found that high on the list of intergenerational travel successes are the following:
- Riverboat cruises through Europe
- Iconic and historic sites like Mount Rushmore and the Grand Canyon
- National Parks
- Orlando amusements
- Interests like art, music, food, and culture
- Back to the Roots trips
Many beautiful trips to Ireland, England, and Eastern Europe are specifically designed for older people to visit the “old country.” A sit down with Facebook and LinkedIn could find a long-lost relative to visit and become the thrill of a lifetime.
Some of the most successful trips are to locations where the older adult has already traveled and is the expert. A father and son visiting the battlefields of Normandy, a mother, and daughter visiting the town in Switzerland where Mom grew up, a fishing trip with parents that have always owned the boat and can teach grandkids.
The rewards are many, and the pitfalls are few if you preplan.
Please visit www.AgelessTraveler.us for more information on mature travel. The Ageless Traveler is a subsidiary of Generation Bold, www.adrianeberg.com helping consumers travel at any age and tour packagers, tourist boards, airlines, and cruise lines reach the mature traveler.
Adriane Berg is the Host of the two weekly podcasts, The Ageless Traveler: Lifelong Travel Made Easy and Generation Bold, The Fountain of Truth About Aging, as well as the author of fourteen books on money and lifestyle. She sits on the United Nations NGO-NYC Committee or Ageing and is Cheerleader in Chief for Business Authority 50+, guiding the growing number of later-life entrepreneurs to success. She is a Co-Founder of N.A.E.L.A., The National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys.