Intro by Katie Vella

I recently had a great conversation with Marie Villeza of Elder Impact. Marie strives to empower seniors against ageism, so that they can keep impacting the world. The team at Elder Impact work hard to provide information seniors need to keep control of their own lives. This is the first of what I hope will be many guests posts – each one designed to help us understand how to keep our independence as we age.

Older people are traveling more and more. They’re taking advantage of their abundance of free time to broaden their worldview by exploring other cultures, near and far. Because of their age and life experience, some claim that aging travelers are at an advantage. They have more time to research and plan. They are more sensible packers. And don’t forget those senior discounts!

There are also some pretty clear health and safety challenges to traveling as you age, however. But, as indicated by the number of senior citizens who are traveling, these hazards don’t have to ruin your trip. In most cases, a little extra planning and preparation is all you need to avoid them.

Health Hazards
Even the most active seniors should pay special attention to their health as they travel. As we age, our bodies change. Our hearts, lungs, eyes, ears, muscles, and even our bladders work differently than they did in our twenties.

That’s why it’s a good idea to get checked out by a doctor prior to any trip. Your primary care physician can clear you for travel and provide you with suggestions on managing any conditions you may have. Depending on your destination, you may also need immunizations. You should research travel advisories and discuss applicable warnings with your doctor as well.

Additionally, you may want to consider a more relaxed itinerary. Choose less strenuous activities, and allow for some down time between planned excursions. Even the relatively mild aches and pains you experience at home can become more difficult to manage while traveling, making you wish you’d selected the guided bus ride instead of the walking tour.

Safety Hazards
Senior citizens are known targets for fraud, scams, and other crimes. So are tourists.  Because you will be both when traveling, you should be on high alert. The good news is, you can reduce your risk of becoming a victim by following a few simple rules:

  • Don’t travel alone, and don’t separate from your travel partner or group, especially in areas with which you are unfamiliar.
  • Protect your belongings by booking hotels that offer in-room safes… and using them.
  • Keep your cash close in a money belt or a hidden pocket. Separate cash from credit cards, and let both your bank and credit card company know when and where you will be traveling.
  • Dress inconspicuously, and try to blend in with the locals. Pack your camera away when you’re not using it. Make frequent trips back to your room to drop off purchases, instead of carrying them around all day.

Other Hazards
In addition to your health and safety, there are plenty of other things that need special attention before and during your travels. Going over home security and final affairs should be at the top of the list.

While you’re away, your home is an easy target for criminals. Your best bet? Have a security checklist. For example, make it look like you’re still there. Leave some lights on, open some blinds, and stop your mail. Even better, get a house sitter or ask a trusted friend to keep an eye on things. You should tell as few people as possible you are traveling. You might even want to wait to post photos to social media until you return.

Finally, as difficult as it is to discuss, you will also want to be sure your final affairs are in order. In the event the unthinkable should happen while you travel, your next of kin and your attorney should be able to locate applicable paperwork, including wills, power of attorney documents, and end-of-life directives.

Of course, there’s no way to plan everything. No matter how much you prepare, something unexpected will happen. That’s actually part of the fun. And, because they’ve had more experience expecting the unexpected, senior travelers are likely better equipped to handle it. Looks like the advantages of being an aging traveler outweigh the disadvantages by a long shot!

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