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Think you’re too old to travel? Think again! Did you know that nearly half of all Brits aged between 60 and 69 took an international flight in 2014? In fact, the amount of leisure trips taken by retired people outnumbers those taken by the younger generations quite significantly! Why? Well, there are many reasons why travel among the elderly is becoming increasingly popular. The most obvious reason, of course, is time. With children who are all grown up and who are looking after their own families, and with no formal work commitments, retirement is the perfect time to see the world. And with ongoing medical advances which mean we’re staying healthier and more active in old age, there’s almost nothing we can’t do. So what options are available for senior travellers wanting to keep on moving?
Great Destinations for Seniors
Depending on your health, there’s really no destination that’s ‘off limits’. However, taking into account some of the considerations of elderly travel, there are some destinations that may provide a more enjoyable, hassle-free, and safe experience than others. While it’s important for travellers of any age to think carefully about their holiday destinations, it’s perhaps even more essential for the elderly.
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Here are some aspects to consider:
* Hot Climates – Very warm temperatures can have a significant effect on blood pressure, causing it to drop and potentially making you feel dizzy and unsteady on your feet. It’s important to take extra care if you already take anything that affect your blood pressure, such as heart medications or medications for Parkinson’s Disease. Remember that skin cancer is also much more common in the elderly as UV rays can be more damaging on older, thinner skin.
* Mountainous Areas – The rugged terrain of Northern Europe or Alaska can increase the risk of falls, which can be especially dangerous if you suffer with osteoporosis. If you want to see these areas, consider a cruise which offers spectacular sights from a safe and secure base. Cruises are also ideal for those with limited mobility; many people who use mobility aids designed for older people at home, will find that large cruise ships make it easy to get around, with efficient lifts, for example.
* Destinations with Disease – The NHS reports that malaria is present in more than 100 countries around the world, most notably in parts of Africa, Asia, South America, and the Caribbean. Studies have found that mortality rates from malaria are typically higher in the elderly, so it’s important to take precautions if you’re planning to visit these areas – or even consider avoid them altogether. Precautions include packing mosquito nets, and taking antimalarial tablets if advised by your GP.
So where are some great places for seniors to visit and really make the most of their retirement?
* Germany – If you don’t want to endure a long haul flight, but are worried about getting a little too much sun down on Europe’s Mediterranean coastline, Germany is the ideal option. It’s got a perfect mix of stunning countryside and busy, bustling cities with plenty of history and culture. The weather is similar to what we’re accustomed to back home, and although much of the country is landlocked, the Rhine creates a wonderful opportunity for some riverside relaxation.
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* Canada – As the second largest country in the world, it’s impossible to see everything Canada has to offer in a single trip… but you can see the best bits, and without having to do any walking! The Rocky Mountaineer train service extends from coast to coast – from Vancouver to Halifax. It takes in everything the country is famous for, from the busy city of Toronto to the serenity of the Banff canyons, and from the cold sprays of Niagara Falls to cool, icy Jasper.
* Spain – If you’re careful to protect yourself in the sun, especially during the hottest parts of the day, Spain can be a great destination for elderly. It’s just a short flight from the UK, there’s good access even from regional airports, and there’s a much more laid back attitude and way of life here that you simply won’t find in other European destinations. Ideal for those with limited mobility who want to relax and unwind, rather than having to be on-the-go all day long.
* UK – Never underestimate the power of a ‘staycation’! According to reports, older people are much more likely to want to travel to somewhere they’ve been to before – it’s familiar and feels safe – and there’s nowhere more familiar than home. What’s great is that you can apply for a senior railcard, or register for your free bus pass if you’re England, which will let you travel all around the country for nothing using local bus services. A great holiday, without the price tag!
Before jetting off, there is one very important thing you’ll need to do – arrange your travel insurance. Travel insurance is a bit of a touchy topic for senior travellers because it can be notoriously expensive. Unfortunately, insurance for older people is typically much more costly than it is for younger travellers. This is because research shows that those aged between 61 and 65 are roughly twice as likely to make a claim than their younger counterparts. This is most commonly due to cancelled trips (due to illness or bereavement), or accidents and injury that occur at the destination, such as falls and trips.
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If you’re not particularly web savvy, it’s a good idea to ask a friend or relative to do some research on your behalf. It’s important to understand that some insurers won’t cover those aged 70 and over, and others may restrict travel to certain destinations. This is most likely to be the Caribbean, Canada, and the United States due to the high costs of health care in these areas. However, the good news is that as travel among the elderly is becoming more and more popular, there are a greater number of insurers who are willing to offer affordable premiums for older travellers, especially on single trip policies.
Staying Happy & Healthy During a Flight
It’s important for travellers of all ages to ensure they remain happy and healthy both at the airport and during the flight. This may include drinking plenty of water and taking regular exercise, for example. However, there are a few extra aspects elderly travellers should take into account before jetting off:
* Breathlessness – Due to pressurised cabins, the inside of a commercial aircraft mimics the problems of being at high altitude – including a reduction in blood oxygen levels. This can leave you feeling a little breathless. Normally, this isn’t a problem, but if you struggle to walk 100 metres without feeling out of breath, you may be affected in the air. It’s worth contacting your airline to see if they can provide in-flight oxygen should you require it. You may need to pay extra for this.
* Incontinence – If your flight is experiencing turbulence, the pilot may put on the ‘fasten seatbelt’ signs to help keep passengers safe. This means that you will be unable to use the toilet at this time, which can be worrying if you suffer with incontinence. It’s advisable to wear an extra absorbent pad, and, believe it or not, to stay hydrated. Don’t be afraid to drink water – if you become dehydrated, your bladder may become irritated and make you need to wee more!
* Medications – The good news is that essential medications can be taken into the cabin with you (airlines typically advise carrying enough for 3 days, and storing the rest in your checked luggage). You’ll need a note from your GP confirming that these medications are required. If your medicines need to be kept cold, contact your airline before flying. They may be able to arrange for you to use a fridge, or to have access to ice or a cool bag for storage during the flight.
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* Mobility – If you require a wheelchair for getting around the large airports, you should find that most airlines are very accommodating. Simply let your airline know of any disabilities before travelling. In most cases, you will be able to remain in your chair right up to the departure gate, and can request special assistance with embarkation and disembarkation. Depending on available space, you may even be able to take your wheelchair into the cabin.
Opening Doors for Self Discovery
Travel for older people is becoming easier, providing a fantastic opportunity for the elderly to really make the most of their free time during retirement. Travelling later in life can be nerve wracking, especially if you’re alone, but solo travel is a hot trend! There are a large number of tour groups that cater exclusively to solo travellers, providing a safe and secure way to travel to more unfamiliar places, such as the Far East. It’s also a great way to meet new friends who share a common passion: exploration and discovery. So remember – you’re never too old to travel and see the world!
Article by Harold H. Rigby, a health and lifestyle writer, passionate about quality of life issues for retired people.