Many people think that the elderly and senior citizens are less mobile and should not travel, and should rest at home. This is so untrue, as the world ages, every society and government are preparing their infrastructure for cater to the elderly as well as the less mobile travellers such as those disabled, on wheelchairs or walking aids. The elderly should travel MORE, not less, to take advantage of their retirement golden years to see the world. This is the best time to travel as you do not have work, less or no family commitments, and wiser and more experienced mindset to see other societies and cultures. As with all travellers, be it young or old, we need to take precautions and prepare for all trips, especially for those long haul trips. Every traveller must be mindful and bear these tips, especially those for elderly and senior citizens.
Pre-Trip Planning for Elderly, Disabled and Seniors Citizens
Every good travel trips start with good pre-planning. Besides the usual planning of schedules, tourist spots, hotels, appropriate food etc, you have to plan more for yourself for your elderly members in any travel trips. Planning is key! Some elderly specific travel pre-planning trips include:-
- Check with the hotel, airlines, etc to see if any special arrangements need to be made for the elderly, especially if a wheelchair, walking frame or walking stick is needed. Do note that full-service airlines are elderly-friendly, but budget airlines are not. There are budget airlines that actually charge extra for the usage of wheelchairs. They may not let the elderly board first, while full-service airlines let the elderly, pregnant women, children, and disabled passengers board the plane first comfortably. Not all airlines are friendly to the elderly, do check with the airline early.
- Google and see if there are nearby medical facilities at the hotel or major tourist spots. It can be useful in emergencies
- Check on the climate and food, to ensure you bring proper attire for the elderly as well as arrange for suitable food and drinks during the travels.
- You may wish to take a packaged tour with travel agencies, do ask for elderly or senior citizen-oriented tour packages. The presence of a local tour guide will help in travel plans.
- Buy decent travel insurance from insurance brokers or agencies. Do ask for travel insurance that covers pre-existing illness, it may be slightly more expensive but helps during travel emergencies.
- If there are some underlying medical conditions, seek your family doctor for travel advice and medication to bring aboard. You can go for a pre-trip medical check-up too.
Pre-Trip Medical Check-ups for Elderly Seniors Citizens
You may want to consult the family doctor for specific travel advice and extra medication before taking the holiday trip. If needed, it may be wise for the elderly to have a medical check-up by the doctor to deem if he is fit for travel.
- Ask your regular doctor to see if a medical check-up is needed.
- Do get extra medication in case the journey back home is stuck to due travel woes.
- Discuss with the doctor about the destination and any health concerns you may have. The mental preparation and peace of mind help you to enjoy the overseas trip later.
- Do have your vaccinations done, especially for flu, pneumonia, etc that may strikes more easily when you are travelling in crowded places.
- If there are infectious diseases at the destination, do have vaccination or precautions, such as avoid eating shellfish, etc.
- Make sure the food served overseas fits the elderly’s diet requirements, especially those with diabetes or other medical conditions.
- Please be extra cautious if the traveller has diabetes, coronary heart diseases, hypertension, chronic condition or had recently undergone hospitalisation or surgery.
Bringing medications on a trip for seniors
Do note that some countries are very strict on illegal drugs and may do extra checks on your medications to verify that it is authentic. Do have the proper doctor’s notes or receipts to prove the medications are real.
- Take more than enough medication for the trip, be prepared in case the journey home is delayed due to travel delays or disruptions.
- Have a written and signed note from the doctor on the medication to show Customs if needed.
- Do note that if you buy medication at overseas pharmacy, do check the dosage amount as medication sold at different countries can have varying potent amounts.
- If syringes or other equipment is needed for medication, do bring a sufficient amount to last for the trip.
- If needed, do have a medical alert bracelet for the elderly in case the caretaker gets lost with the elderly in crowded places.
Luggage Packing for Elderly and Senior Citizens
These advices for luggage are not just for the elderly but for most of us too. A well-packed luggage helps reduce unnecessary weight and ensure we have all that we need for that trip!
- If you have check-in luggage and carry on luggage, make sure you have a jacket, medication, extra clothing (if needed) and any other stuff you need for the duration of the plane flight.
- Both check-in luggage and carry on luggage should be on wheels for easy carry. 4 Wheels luggage is easier to tug than 2 wheels luggage.
- Have extra medication such as medicated oils, band-aids, handiplasts, painkillers, panadol, antacids, etc in the carry on bag.
- A pillbox would be helpful for reminding taking medication, especially when you are in different time zones and have new schedules for tourist spots.
Stretch to prevent deep vein thrombosis and ‘economy class syndrome’
Not all of us can enjoy a business class or first class on a flight with great leg space to stretch our arms and legs. For those of us in economy class, we need to make the effort to stretch often to reduce the bad ill effects. This is especially so for long flights where sitting still for extended periods may create deep vein thrombosis (DVT) or commonly known as “economy class syndrome”. If you have hypertension or coronary heart disease, do take great care to stretch often. This applies especially to elderly travellers, but younger adults should also practice these:-
- Wear loose clothing
- Avoid alcohol, coffee, and tea during in flight. Opt for water or fruit juices instead.
- Do not smoke before a flight. (and definitely NOT during flight)
- Even while seated, stretch your arms and body upwards regularly. Stretch your legs outwards and pull back inwards often too, make your limbs move regularly every 30 minutes or so.
- Stand up and walk along the aisles often if it is not crowded, take the opportunity to stand around when the flight is smooth and the aisle is clear.
- The elderly may consult their doctor before flying. Some doctors may recommend medication or compression stockings or socks to reduce deep vein thrombosis for the flight.
Specific Care for Elderly travelling Aboard
The elderly may react slower, are less mobile and less able to put up a fight. For these reasons, criminal gangs and bad hats tend to target the elderly, especially elderly tourists.
- Do not bring valuables, such as jewellery or expensive watches to overseas countries
- Do not bring lots of cash, some small amount daily should be sufficient for daily expenses.
- Avoid travelling at night and avoid travelling at quiet and lonely places.
- Avoid carrying your bag or mobile phone in your free hand, snatch thieves do occur.
Sensible Travel tips for all, young, adult, and elderly
These travel advice may seem very appropriate for the elderly, but they actually apply to all even if you are a young energetic adult. There is always some differences in overseas cultures and no matter how safe the destination is, there are rogue criminal elements out to prey on tourists because they are unfamiliar with the local situation. Do be careful and read up on all this travel advice, especially for the elderly.
General Travel Tips and Holiday Advice
- Carry a bottle of plain water everywhere.
- Do not drink from the tap until you googled whether it is “safe to drink from the taps at ‘destination-location'”. Most first-world countries like the USA, European cities, Japan, etc have drinkable tap water but do not drink tap water till you are sure.
- Stick to bottled water if you are not confident.
- Avoid raw or undercooked food. Avoid street vendors for those elderly or those with a weak stomach.
- Allow some hours of rest in between tourist spots, allow ample resting at night. Travelling can be fun, and yet exhausting!
- Carry a simple box of medical kits, such as diarrhoea pills, painkillers, band-aids, etc.
- By all means, interact with the locals, but be wary if you need to pass valuables or sensitive information to them. Avoid following locals to other places where you may be alone and vulnerable.
Where to seek Emergency Help in overseas?
An emergency situation such as Loss of Passport, Arrest or Detention, Legalisation of documents, Victim of Crime, Major Crisis (war, terrorism, natural disasters), missing persons, or you just want to locate your country’s overseas mission?
- Consult your country’s embassy. For example, Singaporeans may seek Singapore Embassy contact in case of an emergency. The Singapore hotline is manned 24 hours – +65 63798000
- Call your travel agent if you bought a packaged tour. Or you can call your airlines if needed to change timing due to emergency.
- For medical emergencies, seek help from locals, hotel or whatever is nearby, you should not delay any emergency medical treatment.
- If you bought travel insurance (highly recommended), do call the insurance company or the broker in case of emergencies. If you need to file claims later when you are back home, you can check out Insurance Claims FAQ Guide for Travel, Motor Home policies, etc by a reputable Singapore insurance broker.
Be cautious when travelling, but that does not mean bad things will happen when you travel! It just means it is great to be well prepared, and maybe even OVERprepared. =) Do take the time to appreciate overseas cultures and different foreign lifestyles and sightseeing. Have a great trip! Have souvenirs or a scratch off map of the world to help you remember all the fun and great interesting holiday trips!
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