For many, travel at a younger age is not feasible due to schooling, finances, building a career or raising a family. But after retirement, most of these impediments to leisure travel are no longer present.
So why does it seem that despite having opportunities to travel to places that their parents could only dream about, many seniors find traveling – especially via airplane – a daunting experience and grow more reluctant to leave their comfort zones?
Quite simply, traveling on a commercial flight is too stressful. Many are overwhelmed with new security regulations and the crowds and rush of airports. For others, it might be deteriorating health or the simple discomfort of sitting in an airplane seat for hours.
Following are suggestions that might reduce some of the stress and inconvenience of airplane travel for seniors.
• Plan ahead for airport security. Prepare appropriately to pass through security checkpoints. Give yourself plenty of time to get to the airport and arrive well before your flight. Once you arrive at the airport, be prepared to remove coats or heavy sweaters, shoes, belts, watches and any other metal objects. Typically, you’ll need at least two bins to hold these items. Untie your shoelaces after the TSA agent checks your ID or, better yet, wear slip-on shoes that you can easily remove and put back on after scanning.
Remember that airlines do not allow any containers of fluid greater than 3 ounces for carry-on. Before you leave for the airport, separate liquid toiletries into a 1-quart Ziploc bag and place the bag near your carry-on baggage to avoid delays unpacking while in the security line. You’ll need an extra bin if you bring a laptop.
Do not bring wrapped gifts in carry-on luggage – TSA agents may need to remove the wrapping to inspect items.
• Bring neck support. You may want to take a catnap during your flight. If you do, it’s always best to have some support to help keep your neck and back in a neutral position. Falling asleep in an odd position can create unnecessary stress on your back and neck and result in discomfort. An inexpensive inflatable U-shaped pillow is a great solution for resting upright. In lieu of a pillow, a light sweater can be wrapped around the neck or waist to offer additional support.
• Stretch. Take the time to stretch prior to traveling. Most travel involves sitting for a long period of time. Therefore, it is especially important to stretch muscles that are in and around the pelvis, specifically your hamstrings and quadriceps/hip flexors.
• Get up periodically. Although you may not endear yourself to your neighbors, try to get up periodically to stretch your legs, especially on longer flights. Movement promotes circulation. Standing is generally better for your spine than sitting.
• Share the names of medications and ailments with a travel companion. Though mishaps are rare, take a few minutes to alert your travel companion to any prescriptions and health concerns. If you experience a problem and are suddenly incapacitated or cannot communicate, your travel companion can better assist the flight crew in expediting proper care. If you are traveling alone, write your medications and conditions on a piece of paper and stash them in your wallet along with your identification.
• Engage a chaperone. Whatever the reasons for not wanting to travel as we get older, a personal tour guide, chaperone or nurse practitioner may offer some security. A great resource for such services is Michelle Rogers of HomeInstead Senior Care in Mountain View (691-9671). HomeInstead not only offers in-home services, but can also coordinate aid for travel. The company also works with agencies such as Road Scholar (formerly Elderhostel, www.roadscholar.org) that offer educational travel experiences for aging adults.
Charmaine L. Tu is a chiropractic physician who practices at 851 Fremont Ave., Suite 111, Los Altos. For more information, call 787-5570.