Month: October 2016

Travel Safely Past 65

When we are young, travel is a lark. Slip on the Reboks, pack a toothbrush and underwear, and hit the open road with a cellphone and the kind of energy and agility that feels like it will last a lifetime.

Past 65, when the energy and agility have faded – often noticeably, in spite of our best efforts – travel becomes more complicated, and requires more preparation. In addition to the obvious – travel insurance, necessary documentation, and due diligence – there are medications and medical goods/devices that are mandatory travel items for many seniors with health problems  

Medical Equipment and Supplies for Safe Travel

In some cases, there are even peripheral medical devices, ranging from hand-held and hand-operated asthma-type inhalers (also called bronchodilators) to electrical devices called nebulizers, which deliver a fine mist of medication designed to open airways and relieve breathing. Or consider the equipment needed if one is a Type 2 diabetic – test strips, a glucometer and insulin, without which travel is not possible.  

Finally, there is oxygen, via either a portable generator or tanks which range in size and weight from about 18 inches tall and four pounds, to 30 inches tall and 10 pounds. All these aids and devices are necessary if older people are to travel safely, within a large city, across the country, or to international destinations like Rome, London, Paris, and Cancun.

Because some items may create conflict and longer waits because of Transportation Security Agency (TSA) scrutiny, potential travelers should contact the TSA’s precheck page for cautions and recommendations.

Choosing Locations for Safe Travel

It’s difficult to stay safe in locations where war, social upheaval, or diseases are running rampant. The best defense against traveling to unsafe locations either in North America or internationally is to make oneself aware of conditions in an area being considered for travel.

The most recent example of places to avoid would have been the 2016 Olympics. Organizers sold 4.2 million tickets. In all, about 10,500 athletes and 500,000 spectators attended the opening ceremonies in Rio de Janiero, Brazil on Friday, August 5. Not only were event organizers poorly prepared, and security staff woefully short-handed, but the infrastructure was lacking which would have kept attendees safer from both violence and disease.

Vaccines are a routine part of travel outside the U.S. Some, like the yellow fever vaccine, are mandatory, depending on your destination, of course. Others are recommended, especially for vulnerable demographic groups like pregnant women, the very young and very old, or those with heart disease, cancer, and immune-system diseases.

One of the greatest threats was Zika virus. It will be weeks, perhaps months, before the total number of Zika virus transmissions from the Olympics becomes known, but at least one individual returned to her native land with the disease.

Robberies, muggings and other violence also plagued the recent Olympics, prompting one news media outlet to describe the venue as “…a potential headache for tourists”.

Staying Connected

Travel in the modern world is not only more complicated but also safer, thanks to the technological advances of the last two decades. Mobile phones keep track not only of family, but of travelers themselves, thanks to advanced GPS location tagging and emergency response capabilities.

These phones also make travel more enjoyable and less frantic by incorporating web search technology, electronic mail capabilities, camera technology, and personal databases like medication management systems and Electronic Medical Records, in case illness strikes.

Modern IOS and Android phones are even capable of tracking distance traveled, the number of steps taken or stairs climbed, calories burned, and the length and quality of sleep.

Some software applications for mobile phones, tablets and pads will even allow owners to tag the location where they parked their car, or use the camera software as a magnifying lens with a light to brighten small objects and text.