Monday, March 13, 2017

Travel and The Levels of Aging

I teach a class on travel for the savvy senior.  Many folks are surprised that there’s enough about senior travel that needs discussing!  After all, travel is travel, right?

I used to be a massage therapist, and I specialized in geriatric massage.  What they taught us is that there are varying levels of senior health.  Some seniors are very frail and not very athletic.  Others (like some ladies I saw on America’s Got Talent one year) are tap dancing through their 80s.  More and more, we’re seeing people into their 100s.  It’s an achievement, to be sure, but not unusual.  So, considering the levels of aging, what should your priorities be if you want to travel?

If you are an athletic senior and are sound in body and mind taking little to no medications, then kudos! You are in the top bracket of our senior traveler.  You can travel like the average traveler.

This is also true of our slightly affected senior.  Your sight may be decreasing a bit and you may notice a slower pace, but for the most part, you are as mobile as your completely athletic counterpart, the athletic senior.  You may need a pair of non-prescription reading glasses or a brace of some sort, but in general, you are pretty much good to go.

If you have issues that are easily managed by insulin, anti-depressants, or over-the-counter medications then you are someone who might need to consider a few things before traveling long distances.  You’ll want to bring your medications with you and perhaps a spare pair of prescription glasses.  You don’t require any assistance getting through TSA lines and walking doesn’t bother you. 

Those with persistent health issues such Osteoporosis, obesity, shingles, or more severe forms of arthritis may want to think twice about traveling.  There are more comfortable methods of traveling (mostly through group travel that caters to seniors).  These groups will handle your luggage and hopefully keep the physical exertion to a minimum so that you can enjoy your cruise or tour.

Finally, there is a category of senior that I’m not sure should be traveling at all.  Granted, if the cancer is in the beginning stages and chemo is not an issue then perhaps you could consider a gentle form of travel.  But, with full blown Alzheimers, heart disease, or respiratory disease you could not only be putting yourself at risk but affecting others around you.  One friend told me of a trip she took where the couple kept wandering off as they both had Alzheimers.  After several incidents, they were put on a plane for home, but not before interrupting the group tour on numerous occasions.

I don’t want to discourage anyone from traveling, but I do want to encourage you to see yourself honestly in the context of long distance travel.  I recommend you get a full physical prior to travel to ensure you are in the best shape possible for the trip, and to choose a form of travel that best suits your level of health.  I, too, am looking down that narrow path and have to keep my head about me as to what I truthfully can and can’t do. 

I’d like to also encourage you to do as much as you can while you can do it.  There are no do-overs in this life.  Make yours an adventure!

Disclaimer: Iam not a medical professional. Please see your doctor for advice on traveling and health risks.

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