With individuals living longer and longer, many are getting the opportunity to take on second and third careers, or finally take those trips abroad they’ve always dreamed of. Some people are even choosing to form traveling groups. For example, a group called the “Global Grannies” is a group of women ranging in age from 50s to 80s who travel the world together enjoying adventure in the safety of numbers and the company of women who know how to laugh and have a good time. For seniors traveling abroad this summer, here are a few tips to increase safety, boost independence, and enjoy!
Get Your Body in a Routine
The great thing about travel is that is breaks us out of our routine. We will inevitably be walking and active as we enjoy the sights. Before planning a trip develop a walking routine with those going to prepare for the increased walking during the trip. This will gradually build up strength and flexibility. Be sure to take time to stretch muscles to help prevent injury. Taking breaks is also important to reduce soreness in joints and muscles. It seems natural to purchase new shoes for travel and we know you want to look good in Paris, but it is important to prioritize comfort. Choose shoes that will give a good support and comfort. Be sure to fully break in any new shoes before you go on your trip. The right socks can also make all the difference. Choose a sock that is not 100% cotton that will wick away sweat and reduce blisters. Wear a great outfit and a scarf no one will be looking at your shoes!
When it comes to fulfilling prescriptions abroad, don’t count on it. Take all your daily medications with you. Be sure to get enough prescriptions filled in advance. If you are going for a long time, it is also a good idea to bring an original prescription. Talk to your doctor about your plans to make sure that you are stocked up and get the appropriate shots in advance for your trip. When taking prescription medications through security it is important to keep them in their original bottles as they are a controlled substance. Other over-the-counter vitamins, etc. can be placed in other containers to save room. Be sure to keep a few days’ worth of medications in your carry on in the event your checked luggage is lost.
See the Sights
Your vision is crucial for everyday living, safety, and really enjoying and taking in all the culture around you. If you wear contacts, it is a good idea to take a pair of eyeglasses just in case. If you wear glasses, bringing a backup pair is important should your everyday pair break or be lost. Don't forget those prescription sunglasses. Consider packing a compact mirror if you are traveling in Europe as many cathedrals and ruins have details on the ceiling which can strain your neck after several hours of sightseeing. You can give your neck and back a rest by looking down into your mirror at those gorgeous details.
Fighting a bug on vacation is never fun. Long flights can be a risk to wellness on your trip due to exposure to a mass of people in enclosed areas. Before going to the airport, during the flight, and after landing, take an immune supporting supplement. (Several pills, powders, and potions are available on the market.) Of course wash hands well and carry hand sanitizer with you. Minimize contact with public surfaces such as door handles and railings. Lack of mobility during long flights can also put your health at risk by increasing the risk of blood clots. Do be sure to move around during long flights and stretch legs periodically in your seat.
First Aid & Emergencies
Take a small first aid kit with you. While you certainly can purchase Band-Aides for blistered feet or a pain reliever for a headache, tourist areas are often overpriced. Spend the money on souvenirs or a lovely tour. If you are traveling in a group, be prepared for an emergency by having each individual create a quick reference sheet. In the event of an emergency, your travel companions and/ or loved one should be able to have access to your: diagnosis, allergies, medications with dosages, contact information of primary physician, primary identifying information, health insurance information, and emergency contacts. Discuss a plan for if someone should be injured. Navigating the healthcare system of another country can be quite confusing, but having a plan in place should put everyone at ease and save critical time during a crisis.
Dietary restrictions can be important to know if you are traveling in a group as well. Some individuals are so sensitive to certain types of food that they cannot be around them. When ordering food in another language or enjoying new dishes it can be easy to miss an ingredient. Help one another watch out for foods that cause allergic reactions. While it may be embarrassing to tell the group if you suffer from irritable bowel syndrome or need to use the restroom frequently, be up front about your needs. When the group can plan around needs, everyone is happier and safer for it.
Stay hydrated. Many health issues from muscle cramps to urinary tract infections can be caused by not drinking enough water. Many travelers abroad will skimp on water because of the need to purchase bottled water for safety. Don’t skimp! Increased walking and a change in diet can cause and increase of toxins that will need to be flushed from your system. You might even make a drinking game out of it. Every time you see a particular sight or someone says a particular word, everyone takes a drink of water. Have fun with it.
Schlepping around heavy luggage can be an injury hazard in and of itself. Be sure that you pack a small capsule wardrobe with pieces that can be worn multiple ways. Whether you are packing for one week or three months, you will take the same amount of clothing and just plan on doing laundry. It is also important to mentally “pack light”. We can carry harmful messages about our age or capabilities when we are out of our comfort zone. Being positive and confident will help everyone enjoy themselves fully. Consider creating a fun group travel agreement that outlaws complaining and encourages independence, safety, laughter and enjoyment.
Be Well. Be Safe. Bon Voyage!
Published on June 11, 2014.