For seniors, travelling is more than just an experience. They need to ensure the destination is suitable to their health and other requirements. We have a checklist
This year, when Moradabad-based Anil Jain and his wife Beena (both 73) visited their son Akshay (39), who works in Bengaluru, in October, the family planned a few outings nearby. The senior couple visit their son and his family once every year.
On their itinerary was visiting Shravanbela Gola, a Jain pilgrimage in the Hassan district of Karnataka on the first day, UB City Mall in Bengaluru the next day, and then go to Ooty, a famous hill station in Tamil Nadu, for a week the following day. But by the time they reached Ooty, the hectic schedule took a toll and worsened Anil’s persisting knee issue, which made walking difficult for him. He also fell ill and had to spend most of the time in the hotel itself.
The Jain family later realised that they should have made a more laidback plan, with ample time for rest and relaxation, and should have chosen a destination that was easier on the knees of the senior couple.
The Travel Bug
Travelling has become one of the top choices for the elderly. According to a recently published PGIM India Mutual Fund Retirement Readiness Survey 2023, travelling is one of the major goals of people (67 per cent) who have their retirement planning in place.
Over the years, seniors have become more adventurous. While earlier, their travel plans, especially in India, typically, included visiting friends and relatives in different cities, taking tours with family or travelling to pilgrimage destinations, things are now changing.
Says Saujanya Shrivastava, chief operating officer, flights, holidays and Gulf, MakeMyTrip, a travel aggregator, says: “We are witnessing a fascinating evolution in the travel preferences of senior citizens. Our latest data shows that they are not only choosing traditional spots like Kashmir and south India, but also increasingly venturing to off-beaten destinations, such as Char Dham and Nepal and also broadening their horizons to the places as varied as Australia, New Zealand, Kenya, South Africa, and Japan.”
Also, dependence on children for bookings is going down, and people are often making decisions based on others’ experiences. Sangita Bhattacharyya, founder, 50+ Voyagers Travel and Adventure Club, a travel company that arranges tours for people aged 50 years and above, says: “The elderly were highly dependent on children or close family to plan such tours. But in the last 5-8 years, with the advent of social media and better reach of internet, seniors have become independent in finding and booking their preferred holiday destinations.”
But if you are a senior looking to explore new destinations or you are planning to take your parents on a trip, then don’t just go by the recommendations of your family, friends, travel forums and social media. You should find out if the destination is senior-friendly, and whether it is practical for them. You wouldn’t want to end up like the Jain family who overestimated the physical stamina of their family elders. Choose a place that can satisfy your travel urge while fitting with your other needs.
Here is a checklist of what most elderly travellers should consider before choosing a destination. Though providing for extra comfort and opting for better facilities might cost a little extra in some cases, it could actually save you from trouble.
The Health Check
Most elderly suffer from one ailment or another, so it is advisable to take that into account before choosing a destination. For example, a hilly terrain may not be suitable for those who suffer from shortness of breath. Similarly, cold weather can accentuate pains and aches in certain health conditions.
If such a destination is in the itinerary, it is better to consult your doctor or get a health check-up done to assess if you can cope up. Also, pack in all the medication, including the emergency ones.
It is also advisable to select a destination and locality which has medical facilities, so that they are easily accessible in case of an emergency. Some remote towns may not have proper medical facility within their limits, but only in the nearby towns or cities. For instance if you go to Binsar in Uttarakhand, the nearest town with medical facility would be Almora (25 km) or Nainital (90 km) downhill which could take up to an hour or three, respectively, to reach there.
Jatin Chaudhary, founder, Plan My Tours, a travel and event management company which arranges tours for all age groups, including seniors, says: “We always suggest that our senior travellers pack their prescribed medicines and get a health checkup done before the trip. We carry the first aid ready for any emergency need and send 1-2 tour attendants to assist the elderly throughout the trip. Luckily, we have never faced any medical emergency in our domestic or international tours so far.”
While choosing a destination, consider the types of accommodation available. A comfortable stay can enhance the quality of the trip significantly.
Bhattacharya says that senior-friendly hotels with lifts, round-the-clock room service, hygienic food, handrails in the bathroom, skid-free flooring, wheelchair accessibility, and on-call doctor services are some of the factors one should consider. Also, check that the accommodation is centrally-located and has a medical facility nearby, she adds.
This might mean that you may have to shell out a bit more. However, that may worth the stay. Akshay ensured that the hotel he booked for his parents was comfortable and had all the facilities after checking its reviews on the internet, but he admits that he did not check if facilities were specifically senior-friendly.
The Transit Check
Choosing a destination that is easier to reach may make a lot of sense for seniors. That’s because it’s difficult for some seniors to get on a bus or travel by taxi for long hours. Finding out how well-connected the chosen destination is, therefore, important. Breaking the journey where taxi travel is a must can help. Says Chaudhary, “Sometimes, even climbing on to a bus could be a challenge for some people. We understand their requirement and carry a folding staircase so that visiting different places is not a problem."
Mobility could be a challenge for several seniors. So, make sure you have an itinerary that is not action-packed. Sitting back and relaxing may do you good. Keep your travel pace slow and enjoy the trip instead of rushing from one place to another without soaking in the experience.
Food: If you have food restrictions to follow or have a strict preference for particular types of food, check the availability before travelling. You could also carry some packaged food along with you.
For vegetarians, the food choice may be limited in some foreign destinations, and they may have to depend on packaged food. So, be ready for it.
Internet: Not all elderly people may be glued to their gadgets, but internet connectivity is required to stay in touch with family and friends, especially for seniors who are travelling alone.
Finally, stay flexible and don’t over-exert. Shrivastava says: “As the third-highest spending group in the holiday sector, seniors are investing not just financially but also in terms of time, spending more nights per holiday as compared to other segments. This indicates a desire not just to see the world, but to immerse themselves in it, and thus create memories that are enduring. It’s a robust reminder that the spirit of discovery knows no age”.
In short, choose a destination that can create experiences that you may have craved for during your working life when you didn’t have the time to go holidaying. But don’t choose it just because the destination is not ticked off in your list. For example, if you want peace and quiet on your trip, it may be a bad idea to go to a place like Goa where tourists flock in droves during the winter. Doing a little due diligence before taking that trip can make it truly memorable.