The kids are all grown and out of the house, though the youngest took a little extra coaxing. Now you have the time and the means to act on your desire to get out and explore the world.
People like to call these “The Golden Years,” though the definition of that phrase typically includes the words advanced age, which we’re not particularly fond of. So, instead, let’s call this time “The Sweet Spot.”
That time in life after the kids move out and you’ve put in your last notice of leaving to any employer, and before your kids need to bring up the sensitive and important issue of senior care living options. You have the freedom to go where you want, and time that can be spent doing what you want. How sweet, indeed.
However, something you may not have considered is that different modes of transportation come with different risks. For instance, traveling by road carries the risk of traffic accidents. Flying has the added risk of developing blood clots. And cruising, while extremely safe, includes the risk of eating too much at the buffet and slipping into a food coma.
Risks of Flying for Seniors
Developing blood clots is the major risk associated with flying for seniors. Blood clots form when circulation is slowed or stops completely. Flying increases this risk as you’re often sitting for extended periods of time, as this is what contributes to the development of clots.
Healthline warns that, “airplane flights of four hours or more may be a risk factor for deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and pulmonary embolism (PE).” DVT is caused by clots forming in the deeper veins in the body, like those in your thigh. If that clot moves into your lungs, this causes PE.
Symptoms for DVT include:
- Swelling in your feet or legs
- Unexplained pain in your lower extremities
- Warming sensation on the skin of your legs or feet
- Skin that’s changing in color
Symptoms for PE include:
- Shortness of breath
- Clammy skin
- Chest pain
- Irregular heartbeat
Both DVT and PE originate from blood clots that typically form as a result of prolonged sitting, like you might experience on a 15-hour flight to Asia. To reduce your chances of developing clots, make sure you get up and move around the cabin of the airplane as much as possible.
Staying hydrated will also help, especially since airplanes can get very dry. It’s easy to not drink as much water on a plane as you normally would at home, so diligence will be key. Another option is to wear compression stockings, as they help to improve circulation. The last thing you want from your vacation is a memory involving a trip to the emergency room.
On that note, being prepared for the worst isn’t a bad idea. Consider getting medical travel insurance, if for no other reason than gaining some peace of mind.
Risks of Road Travel for Seniors
Traffic accidents don’t tend to discriminate based on age. Your driving ability may not even matter, as when it comes to accidents, it usually takes two to tango — which means it’s often a matter of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. However, for seniors, there are a few other considerations to be aware of.
Before embarking on that 10-hour drive to Yellowstone, make sure your medications don’t include warning labels that say, “do not operate heavy machinery.” And even if your medications appear safe to mix with driving, it can’t hurt to double-check with your doctor.
Most importantly, trust your body. How do those medications make you feel? Even when there isn’t a heavy machinery warning, if a medication makes you drowsy or lightheaded, it won’t combine well with a long-distance drive.
When was the last time your eyes were checked? Are your prescription glasses, if you wear glasses, up to date? The stronger your vision, the safer you’ll be on the road.
If driving at night is difficult, you may want to limit your driving to only daylight hours. You may also want to consider getting prescription sunglasses to reduce glare. And it’s always a good idea to clean all windows and mirrors, as well as make sure headlights are operating as they should.
Just like your vision, when was the last time you had your hearing checked? It’s not unusual to hear threats on the road before seeing them. If you have a hearing aid, make sure you wear it. Quieter environments are better for focusing on the road, so save the loud rock and roll music for pit stops.
Risks of Cruising for Seniors
Most cruising risks can be alleviated by wearing pants with elastic waist bands and bringing along some antacids. Unless you’re traveling on some broken-down ferry in Sumatra, or your captain is playing dodge-the-icebergs, there is little to worry about on a cruise.
However, as big as some of these ships are nowadays, getting lost while shopping for that perfect gift to take back home is always a concern. Whether you’re on a Princess cruise or the super-fancy Seven Seas Explorer, there are a few tips to keep in mind that will help make your cruising vacation more enjoyable.
- Know your ports: Do a little advanced research. Try to find some interesting things to do or cool sights to see. Otherwise, you’ll end up just following the masses to the nearest market area, and before you know it you’ll be wearing one of those “I Was Here” t-shirts.
- Mind your alcohol: This is not about the amount of alcohol — that’s entirely your business. However, be aware that some ships already include a tip in the price. Also, see if your ship allows you to bring some onboard … or just sneak it on if they don’t.
- Pack smart. How prepared are you for the multitude of weather conditions you may experience on your trip. Hot? Rainy? Cold? Just because your Alaska cruise is in mid July, this doesn’t mean it can’t get cold. And (spoiler alert) it will definitely rain.
- Take the stairs. Yes, we know you packed stretchy pants. But how nice would it be if you didn’t need to stretch them very much. You’d be amazed how many calories you can burn by avoiding elevators on your cruise. Which means being able to eat more!
Cruising is certainly a safer option when compared to flying or driving. But there are so many more advantages that go beyond safety.
The scenery is always changing, and you can allow yourself to be distracted by it. The activities are practically endless, and sometimes literally endless. The food is plentiful and top-notch in most cases, if you’re not on a restricted diet.
A cruise vacation just might be the perfect vacation. They’re stress-free, worry-free, and name one other place where elastic waist band pants aren’t just tolerated; they’re recommended. All you have to worry about now is one of your kids moving back home and spoiling all the fun.
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