Travel tips for seniors

By Lim Yeng Peng

A retired friend once mused over an observation from one of her frequent leisure trips with friends. She noticed that when you travel with older people (herself being one of them), the morning starts with a breakfast of medications and supplements for all together. They will converge at the lounge or living room first thing in the morning with their pillboxes and glasses of warm water.

Pillboxes aside, there is nothing to stop an older person from travelling. 

Travelling can be fun, but it can be hectic as well. With some planning and some caution, seniors can visit almost any destination.

Consult Your family doctor
In the weeks before travel, schedule a check-up with your doctor to make sure you are in good health for your trip. This is even more necessary if you have chronic disease condition such as diabetes or high blood pressure. Besides your usual health checks, inform him of your plans and intended destination, and ask him for travel advice on what to look out for during the trip, your medications and vaccinations needed. 

Pack Your Medication
Make sure you pack enough medication for the entire trip and at all times, you should carry one set of medication on you. 

"You may want to consider bringing two sets of medications – one in your check-in luggage and the other in your carry-on luggage. So that in case of lost luggage, you still have one set to rely on," said Dr Yea Kok Chin, Family Physician of Hua Mei Mobile Clinic.

In addition to packing enough, Dr Yea strongly advises remembering to bring the medicine that you have regularly been taking such as blood pressure pills, diabetes and cholesterol medicine. "Bring the usual medications and if possible, extra medication in case of travel delays or emergencies," Dr Yea added.

Plan Your Trip
Read up about the places you are visiting. Know your own limit and choose an itinerary that is suitable for you. Get familiar with the weather information and the level of hygiene in the country you intend to visit, such as the state of drinking water and food choices available.

Find out about the health care facilities of the destination first and 'match' it with the state of your own health. This means that if you are not too healthy or have medical problems, avoid travelling to places where the health care facilities are scarce or are not easily accessible.

Check if the places you want to visit are elder and wheelchair friendly. If you are unsure if the information provided by the destination tourism website is accurate, try visiting a TripAdvisor web page where travellers' actual experience and reviews are collated worldwide. You can also probe the reviewers and ask for further tips such as the weather or best time to visit. 

If you are already using a walking aid like a stick at home, continue to use it. When others in the travelling group see you using the walking aid, they will be more patient with you. More importantly, it helps to avoid falls and unnecessary injuries.   

Travel insurance is also vital for elderly travellers who are at risk of falls or prone to illness.
If you are planning a lot of walking during the trip; hill walking or on uneven grounds, do train up to increase your stamina and fitness before the trip. You wouldn't want a sprain or muscle ache to ruin the rest of your trip.

Those afraid of the cold will need more warm clothing than others. "Check the weather before embarking on your trip to ensure that you have packed enough clothing," said Dr Yea.

Going Solo
For the adventurous seniors planning to travel and see the world alone, keep copies of your medical prescriptions, cash and passport on you at all times. Travel with a reputable tour agency or local tour operator and read up extensively on the places to visit. Know the public transportation network well in terms of safety and timing as this will affect your returning or connecting flight.

Always stay connected while you are overseas. Inform your family and friends how your trip has been so far and where you are heading to next. Consider e-registering your trip with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs before travelling just to be on the safe side. The Ministry also has an informative webpage filled with vital information on what to look out for in each country, such as the local laws, safety and security issues.

Ensure you have your power bank with you, and sufficient roaming data.

Upon Return To Singapore
If there is a time difference between the country you are visiting and Singapore, you may experience jet lag upon your return. This happens when you cross time zones quickly (as in air travel).  There is no time for the body to adjust to the changes in time zones, and this causes fatigue, tiredness, headache, insomnia, loss of appetite, as well as confusion and agitation.
To reduce jet lag, have adequate rest and try to eat a well-balanced diet. Keep well-hydrated during the flight.
As soon as you arrive back home, try to change your routine to the local timetable immediately as this will speed up your body's clock adaptation to the new environment. This means if you arrive in Singapore in the morning, try to keep awake and sleep at your usual time at night. If possible, time your flight to arrive in Singapore at night so that you can sleep soon after your arrival.


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