Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Senior Travel Advice: Your only internet resource!

If one searches on advice for senior travelers, one finds lots of web sites marketing to active able-bodied seniors. There's not much providing advice on travel for seniors who may be significantly disabled by visual problems, motor problems, cognitive limitations, etc. The only way I found this useful resource was by limiting my google search to ".gov" sites.

So here's my contribution. A few travel tips for seniors disabled by time or disease. It will likely apply to many healthy seniors over age 80. Some of these tips apply to child travel (not a very kind comparison, but I'll be senior too one day -- I hope!), some to travel by disabled persons.

1. In the US ticketing agents can provide passes to allow one to accompany disabled seniors to the gate. Highly recommended!

2. The better US airports provide good shuttle service between gates and security. Try to learn how this works in advance; sometimes airport employees are not very supportive.

3. Northwest offers a fee-based companion program to help seniors go from ticketing to their plane seat. Other airlines offer less sophisticated services for free. Use these where available.

4. Passing security is tough -- even when traffic is light. If possible screen elders in advance. Encourage use of running shoes (no metal). Don't use metal braces. Watch for body implants (most now are non-magnetic). Remove coins, slim down bulky wallets, remove keys, etc. Consider a neck bag for carrying ID, boarding pass, passport, itinerary, help page (see below), etc.

5. In addition to the official itinerary provide a written document with plainly written directions, contact information for local help (children, friends) etc. Include advice on where to go if lost or separated. Provide a cell phone number that seniors or others can call to get assistance.

6. Meeting points on arrival are tricker than departures. There may be many meeting points and, it may be hard to know where elders will appear. Ask the airline for advice, ask about their escort services if any. If possible meet where seniors leave security rather than at a baggage claim.

7. When purchasing tickets work with a human agent on seating arrangements. Ventilation is better at the front of planes. Try to get the same seats in both directions. Consider sending seniors a seating map. Encourage seniors to take advantage of pre-boarding and to be ready for the pre-boarding announcement.

8. Hotels usually have special rooms for disabled persons near the main desk. Ask for them. When registering, look for a way to indicate that the room occupants will need special assistance in the event of an emergency.

meta: elder, geriatric, old, senior, travel, airplane, air travel, airport, tips, advice

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