As we enter the summer season, more and more seniors are making plans to travel to distant places. A recent survey conducted by the Global Coalition on Aging, GCOA, found traveling to be one of the top two dreams Americans have about retirement. Seniors can be healthier if they do things that are fun, interesting, imaginative, and exciting like traveling explains Mike Hedin, PHD, the executive director for the Global Coalition on Aging. New and different experiences and environments increase cognitive stimulation and mental activity. And after retirement there is no longer the worry of having a limited allotment of vacation days.
After a physical exam by a physician confirms that your loved one is healthy enough to travel, considerable planning and research needs to be done to insure a successful trip. Hotels should be checked for rooms designed for people with limited mobility and other special needs. Always ask for rooms close to the elevator if walking is a problem. Bathroom safety is of utmost importance so ask about handgrips next to the toilet and in and around the shower.
It is important that senior travelers have enough medications with them for the duration of the trip. A good idea is to bring an extra week’s supply because travel arrangements could change. Also bring copies of prescriptions because medication could be lost or stolen. When using air transportation be sure that the medication is packed in a carry-on bag in the event of delayed or lost luggage. Seniors with pacemakers and other medical devices should consult their physicians to find out whether it is safe to go through the metal detectors. The airline should be notified as well and a request for the security pat down option can be made if there is the potential of the metal detectors interfering with the pacemaker or other medical device.
Senior citizens are able to request assistance in the airport, from the time they arrive to the time they board. They can request assistance at security where they can go through a shorter line. Most airlines call for travelers needing special assistance to board first and have their luggage stored in the overhead compartments.
Appropriate documentation is important when preparing for a trip outside the United States. A passport should be applied for months in advance of the trip. The local post office will have the application form that you will need. Make at least three copies of the passport, driver’s license, Medicare and other insurance cards as well as travel tickets and itinerary. One copy of the documents should be placed in the carry-on bag, one copy forwarded to someone at the arrival destination and a copy stored in the luggage.
If you are traveling on an extended flight, be aware of the risks associated with heart disease, obesity, and sitting for long periods of time, etc. These conditions are known risk factors for developing blood clots so it’s important to avoid alcohol, drink plenty of water and stand, stretch and move around regularly during extended travel.
One last recommendation is that seniors should investigate trip insurance that would protect against the necessity to cancel a trip due to an illness or other legitimate cause. In most cases this type of coverage will reimburse you for the cost of airfare and related expenses. Emergency medical coverage is also available to pay for medical care as well as the cost of emergency travel back home. For many seniors this is a “must have” because it includes payment for medical care outside the United States.
Although traveling consists of some demanding activities, they are also physically beneficial for senior citizens, as studies show that this type of behavior is more likely to improve their overall health.
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