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.  

Safe International Traveling for Seniors

International travel during your golden years can be one of the best adventures of your lifetime. Unlike traveling decades earlier, you don’t need to worry about using vacation time or returning to work after a relaxing getaway. Given the time and money involved in international travel, maybe you never had the chance until now. While traveling by air, land, or sea can open your mind to a whole new world of opportunities, it’s important to stay safe while traveling. Here are some safe travel tips when traveling abroad:

Have the Right Documents

When traveling abroad, you need to have the proper travel documents to legally enter and exit countries. If you’ve never had a passport book or passport card, you should apply for one as soon as you make your travel plans. Keep in mind that passport cards cannot be used for air travel. If you already have a passport, but haven’t traveled in a while, make sure it’s not expired. Although it can take around 6 weeks to process a passport application, it’s recommended to apply at least three months in advance.

Consider Travel Insurance

Travel insurance is a good idea for any traveler, but especially for older travelers. If you are afraid of running out of medication while on vacation or falling down and getting hurt, travel insurance is a relatively inexpensive way to make you a little safer.

Travel to Safe Places

The U.S. Department of State: Bureau of Consular Affairs, strongly recommends that travelers enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (formerly known as “Travel Registration” or “Registration with Embassies”). By enrolling in the free program, travelers will be given traveling tip, including Travel Warnings and Travel Alerts. With this important information, a traveler can avoid certain areas or cancel travel plans. The program makes it easier for travelers to receive quick and accurate assistance during an emergency or if a passport is lost or stolen. The Smart Traveler Enrollment Program assists with contacting family, in the U.S., if an emergency occurs during travel.

Bring Technology to Stay Connected

Even if you’re not tech savvy, it’s a good idea to bring a mobile device (such as a cellphone) to stay connected or to check in with friends and family. Before packing up your technology, whether it be an iPad, cellphone, or your medical management system, make sure it will work if traveling overseas. Additionally, before you leave, make sure your adult children or someone else knows about your travel plans, other important details, and your plan of action in the event of an emergency, illness, or even death while traveling.

Pack Light, Dress Appropriately

When traveling, it’s always a good idea to pack light. Remember, the more you take, the more you need to keep track of or may have stolen. Bring the essentials and keep valuables at home. When touring the historic narrow, cobblestone streets, make sure you wear comfortable footwear with good tread and a low heel. Don’t wear any clothing or footwear that will increase your chances of slipping, falling, or getting hurt while travel. Nothing cuts a once-in-a-lifetime trip like an injury or illness.