Updated: May 31
Traveling is the Fountain of Youth
I am writing this blog a week after returning from a week in Ecuador! I have always enjoyed traveling and I believe it has many health benefits. The National Council on Aging (NCOA) states that traveling is vital to our mental health and can keep us physically healthy. The term "life space" refers to the amount of space a person takes up in life. For example, those people who go out to lunch or on vacation take up more "space" than those who stay at home". The research has found that those who take up more "life space" tend to be healthier in all aspects of life.
So, what does this have to do with occupational therapy? Occupational therapy helps people do the things they enjoy like traveling!
As we age there can be physical, health, and environmental barriers that make it hard to travel and explore. Many places are not accessible and environmental barriers like steps, uneven walkways, or bathrooms that are difficult to access can make traveling a challenge. Thankfully, there are a lot of resources to make travel easier and safer! Check out these travel tips below.
“The bold adventurer succeeds the best.” – Ovid
Tip #1 - Use a travel agent or company that specializes in older adults.
There are several travel companies that plan trips that are designed to meet the needs of older adults. Many of these companies are not the old fashioned trips for "old people". For example - Road Scholar offers a variety of really cool trips both in the USA and abroad where you can choose your adventure based on your desired activity level (on your feet, easygoing, outdoors/no sweat, outdoor spirited, or at a slower pace). Check out this list of travel companies that specialize in trips designed for older adults. These companies can be a great resource to make sure that your travel will be tailored to fit your travel needs with accommodations in lodging, transportation, and activity levels.
*Information below was directly copied from the respective websites.
ROAD SCHOLARS ARE NO ORDINARY TRAVELERS
They are lifelong learners typically over the age of 50 from diverse cultural and professional backgrounds. Students of the world, they are the guests you hope to sit next to at a dinner party. They've led interesting lives because they're interested in everything. And they are exactly the kind of people you want to be learning with as you explore the globe.
To make it easier for you to find the Road Scholar learning adventure that best suits your physical abilities, we’ve created a new Activity Level rating system. These Activity Levels are an easy way for you to glance at a program and tell instantly if it's right for you.
Catering primarily to travelers 50 and older, Overseas Adventure Travel (O.A.T.) offers travel tours for seniors that build in plenty of ways to support older adventurers. Recognizing that many of its travelers are retired, O.A.T offers longer trips—in fact, unlike many travel tour companies for seniors, the majority of O.A.T’s adventures are two weeks or longer. Many also include pre-trip and post-trip extensions for those who want to stay even longer.
Seniors can easily match their energy level and accessibility needs with O.A.T.’s Activity Level rating system, which ranges from one for easy trips to five for strenuous journeys. And solo travelers can take advantage of the company’s free and heavily discounted single supplements on trips. O.A.T. reports that 92 percent of its 30,000 single spots this year are being offered without a single supplement fee.
For more than 90 years, Globus has been a trusted guided tour specialist that ranks among the best travel tour companies for seniors. One of the ways it has translated age into wisdom is by recognizing that a one-size-fits-all tour doesn’t work for everyone. Its range of touring types significantly boosts the chance of creating personalized matches between destinations and travelers.
Tip #2 - Be Crime Aware
There are a couple of safety factors to consider when traveling. Don't let fear of crime keep you from having a good time, but be smart and aware of your surroundings.
Don't publicize your trip. Posting about your trip on Facebook or social media can make your home a target of crime while you are gone. Consider having automatic lights in your house or a housesitter to check in while you are away.
Many tourist destinations can be crowded and have a higher risk of pickpockets. Consider leaving valuable jewelry at home and consider what type of bag or purse you will carry. There are a variety of anti-theft bags or ways of hiding your money. One thing to consider when looking at how to store and keep your money is your ease of access. An antitheft bag won't help if you can't use it easily. Some of these anti-theft bags have small zippers or clasps that might be difficult to manipulate if you have arthritis. You can purchase many of these online, but I like to go to the store and try them out before making a purchase.
Tip #3 - Be Health Conscious
It is easy to fall out of your routine on vacation. Schedules can get mixed up and diets can be different. While it can be fun and appealing to go with the flow, not sticking to your regular health routines can wreak havoc on your body and impact your travel. As we get older our bodies are more sensitive to changes in routine.
One day my travel group went wild and had dessert before lunch. Needless to say, it was delicious! BUT>>>>>>The rest of the day we felt tired, sluggish, and had upset bellies.
Sticking to your routine can ensure you feel good on your trip.
Make sure you pack your medications in your carry-on.
If you use a CPAP - take it with you!
Set an alarm so you can make sure you are taking your medications on time.
Ask your doctor about compression stockings during traveling. Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is a risk associated with travel. Compression stockings can reduce your risk of DVTs and swelling in your legs when traveling.
Keep a list of medications and medical conditions on you.
It can also be a good idea to check in with your doctor before any big trips and always get travel insurance.
Tip #4 - STAY HYDRATED
Dehydration is a common travel ailment and can cause dizziness, low blood pressure, and urinary tract infections (UTI's). Stay hydrated to stay moving! Proper hydration can help lubricate your joints, improve your memory, and provide energy. In Ecuador, they liked to serve "Canelazo" which is a lightly sweetened cinnamon and fruit tea. It was new and lovely. Look for fun new ways to make staying hydrated part of your travel experience.
It can also be helpful to travel with a water bottle with a filter. Amazon has a variety of portable water bottles that have an attached filter so you can fill them up as you need and not worry about the water quality.
Check out this website with 10 tips for staying hydrated on long flights. It has some really helpful information.
Tip #5 - Energy Conservation
Traveling usually involves doing new and different things that can take a lot of energy. We start each day with a certain amount of energy which is dependent on how we sleep, what we eat, how we are feeling, or how much energy we used the previous day. It is important to think about and plan how we want to use that daily quota of given energy and conserve where we can. For example, you might be able to walk through the airport, but using an airport transfer or wheelchair can save you time and much-desired energy. Consider little swaps such as a sponge bath instead of a full shower, letting someone carry your bags, and sitting instead of standing when you can. The goal is to save energy for the fun stuff! Before you leave on your trip spend a few days being mindful about your regular day. Think about what activities tend to use the most of your energy, what time of day you have the most energy, and what helps give you energy. Use these insights to help plan for your trip.
*Most hotels have a laundry option. Although it might have a cost, doing laundry on your trip often means you can pack much less and that saves energy.
“We travel not to escape life, but for life not to escape us.” – Unknown
I have been blessed to work with an amazing group of older adults. I continue to be amazed by my many clients who continue to travel and explore. On the other side, sometimes I see clients who are hesitant to go out because of needing a walker, cane, or oxygen for fear of "looking old." When I see people living life using whatever tools they need (a cane or walker) - I don't see an "old person" - I see a "Rockstar". Travel is a great way to stay active and healthy. I hope some of these tips help inspire travel and adventure. Knowledge is power and knowing what resources are available to you can make travel more accessible.
Check out this fact sheet from the TSA about disabilities and medical conditions.
Check out this fact sheet from the Department of Transportation about wheelchairs and guided assistance at the airport.
I hope you all have a safe and fun summer!
Jenny Williams, OTD
" I'm not lazy, I'm on energy saving mode"
My sister took this funny picture of me on our trip utilizing some energy conservation after a horseback ride. Don't be afraid to rest when you can.