While traveling can be fun and exciting, as we get older, it can also be more of a challenge. Older adults — especially those who have disabilities — can find travel to be more burdensome than enjoyable.
Here are five tips to help make your trip with or as a disabled senior as enjoyable as possible!
- Consult with a doctor first. Make sure that travel is even feasible given the condition of the senior. If so, find out what medications you’ll need to bring on the trip and what, if any, physical limitations should be considered. Follow any recommendations the doctor might have to ensure a safe trip.
- Plan as much as possible. There’s an old saying — fail to plan, plan to fail. Nothing could be more than when preparing to go on a trip with a senior that has many needs. While you can’t anticipate everything that you’ll need, the more planning you can do and the more things you can arrange in advance, the better. Call ahead to the places you plan to visit. Make sure they have the proper facilities necessary to accommodate you or your loved one and anything they need or will be using, such as a walker or wheelchair. Do they have ramps? Are doorways wide enough for wheelchairs? Are there places to sit if the senior gets fatigued? Can they accommodate service animals? Are oxygen tanks allowed? Don’t be afraid to ask important questions so you can be fully prepared.
- Get support. Many travel agents are able to help with planning and arranging for special equipment or accommodations for your trip. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) also offers information for travelers with disabilities and medical conditions. Just call their helpline toll free at 855-787-2227 or you can visit their website by clicking HERE.
- Don’t over do it. When traveling, there’s a tendency to want to “do it all.” Resist that temptation. Often, just one activity a day can be plenty for an older adult. Depending on the activity, that might even be too much. Determine the duration of the activities you are considering and decide if the length of time is appropriate or will be too much for the senior. Make a list, and then go through it again to chose priority activities — things the senior really wants to do and see that also will work with the senior’s energy level and physical limitations. Remember that you will also be spending a lot of time eating out and going to restaurants. So don’t forget to work those “outings” into your plans as well.
- Assess the situation often. Once on the trip, don’t be afraid to ask the senior or yourself how things are feeling. Is the senior tired? Cold? Hungry? Is the senior having fun? Or is the senior feeling fatigued and unhappy? Don’t feel that you always have to be “all in” to everything you are doing on your trip. If something isn’t feeling comfortable and the senior needs to stop, then don’t feel obliged to carry on. Adjust as necessary, to help the trip stay as enjoyable as possible.
Just because a person is older or has a disability doesn’t mean that person can’t travel. It just means that a little more thought and action needs to go into the coordination of the trip. By taking the proper steps, you can help create for that senior a trip of a lifetime.