One of the greatest gifts we can give our parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, or simply a special elderly friend is the gift of travel. Most seniors have collected enough material goods, and are now ready to enjoy experiences more than things. This is part of what makes travelling with the elderly so rewarding; most of them really cherish and relish experiences.
After taking my aunt to New York and watching my parents include their parents in some of our family vacations, here is some of what I have learned about travelling with seniors:
Sometimes Seniors Just Want a Travelling Companion
Many seniors have the money and desire to travel, but simply want and lack a travelling companion. A senior’s fear of travelling alone may seem unsubstantiated, but a study by Shelley Taylor at UCLA found that older adults do not pick up cues of untrustworthiness in others as much as younger people do. Though older folk become more positive, they begin to trust the world and people more. So doesn’t it behoove the younger and meaner of us to protect our elders from those who might want to take advantage of them generally or when they’re on vacation?
In addition to a little bit of anxiety about travelling alone, a senior may just want to share his or her experience with someone.
Make Sure You Plan for Any Mobility Issues
I took my aunt on a trip to New York City; she has two artificial hips and one artificial knee, but she was so excited to go, she enthusiastically declared that she did not need motorized assistance at the airport. I regretted not talking her in to it, because after a walk through the JFK Airport, she was pooped. I learned to always plan for mobility issues. For example, some seniors have a hard time stepping up into a van rather than stepping down into a sedan. This was the case for my aunt. Don’t be afraid to ask your senior what he or she will need when travelling.
People Have a Soft Spot for Travelling Seniors
I have been pleased and stunned with how most people treat travelling seniors. It turns out that most people respect their elders. When hailing a cab in New York, two people paid deference to my aunt, and offered us the cab that they themselves had flagged down! I lived in New York for five years, and no one ever did that for me. I also watched in wonder as an airport employee brought me and my aunt to the front of a long line. If someone should offer your senior this courtesy, simply say yes; I can almost guarantee that if you are not disabled and under fifty years old, the chances of this happening to you are almost zero.
For Some Seniors Their Vacation with You is a Dream Fulfilled
I have heard almost nothing but good things about the younger generation taking the older generation on vacation. My friend brought his mother over to visit him in Ireland; she had never been out of the United States. Not only did she have a wonderful time, but she was surprisingly independent while she was there. “She was really doing her thing,” my friend said.
When I took my aunt to New York, I thought I would need to slow my pace for her, but she surprised me—she wanted to do everything she possibly could including walking halfway across the Brooklyn Bridge. It was a beautiful, sunny day and she relished some of the characters we encountered. One had a boom box and a yellow snake around his neck. Another stopped to pose for pictures with my aunt though we had never met this man in our lives.
After our walk on the Brooklyn Bridge, my aunt excitedly and happily called her sister, “Was fϋr eine verrϋckte Stadt!” (What a crazy city!). She enjoyed every minute of it.
If Possible, Why Not Treat Your Senior to a Luxury Vacation?
Seniors have earned the right to some luxury. If you are able, why not treat one of them to a luxury vacation? International Vacation Home Exchange has some exclusive luxury homes which are spacious and can house many people; both you and your senior guest can have some privacy, yet you will still have the comfort of knowing that your senior is with you under one roof.
Taking Your Parents on Vacation Is a Nice Thing to Do After All You Put Them Through
Remember all the things your parents did for you? Remember some of the things you did which tried their patience? Why not take them or send them on vacation to thank them for all that they did for you? (even if it was just changing your diapers—that’s a biggie).
Plan Ahead for Senior Discounts or Accommodations
Whether or not you will be travelling with your senior, do a little more research. There are often senior discounts or special accommodations offered or needed. For example, when I was in Santorini, we stayed in a glorious hotel on a cliff side. My husband and I climbed many steps every day, which was okay for us, but may be impossible for some seniors. I spoke to the concierge who said that they had special senior housing near the top of the cliff side so that the seniors wouldn’t have to go up and down all of those steps. It’s also okay to call ahead and ask the hotel or luxury home exchange owner what is needed for your senior(s).
If You Bring Seniors on a Family Vacation, Important Bonds Form between the Generations
My parents were very good at inviting and taking our grandparents on some of our family vacations. There we were—three generations in a Dodge van motoring across the desert to Palm Springs. My grandfather insisted on helping with the gas, and he enjoyed the temperate weather in the winter. We grew closer to my grandparents, and I recall with great happiness the times we spent picking citrus in the sun at an old farmer’s home. My grandfather came with us almost every year, and would reconnect with the old farmer. Our holidays were enriched.
Take a Senior Back to His or Her Homeland
Whether your senior’s homeland is in Smalltown, USA or an exotic, exclusive locale, taking a senior back to his or her homeland is normally a wonderful experience. My grandfather served as tour guide in the small, southern Utah towns where he was raised, and explained with great pride what buildings our great-grandfather had built. You could see my grandfather come alive.
My aunt accompanied my grandmother to her homeland in Poland, which at the time she lived there, was Germany. She had not been back to visit since she was seventeen years old. My aunt said that as she and my grandmother walked the streets of Wroclaw, my grandmother’s happy tears would not stop coming.
Ready to help make a senior’s dream come true? IVHE can help. Peruse luxury home exchanges and see how it works.
Sona Schmidt-Harris – Follow me on Twitter @Sonag2000