9 Tips for seniors in need of a wheelchair while travelling alone.
A few weeks ago one of my 92 year old seniors who doesn't often use her walker cheerily announced to me that she would be traveling across the states soon. I asked when and where was she planning to go. She told me with whom she would be visiting, when she would be traveling, how long she would be staying, and that she would be going by air. But, she didn't mention a travel partner.
It was very considerate of her to let me know that I would not be doing her shift for a few weeks, but I was not worried about that aspect of our conversation. So I asked her who would be traveling with her? Again she cheerily answered with her beautiful smile splashed across her not looking a day over seventy face, "I'm traveling alone! I do it a lot".
She has actually traveled extensively throughout the world with her husband of many years who is no longer with us. Immediately, not to be negative, but my mind started sorting through how was she going to navigate the two busy airports she would need to use for her trip. Has she really thought this out? What will she need?
Before I could say anymore she let me know she had it all planned out. She said she would have the airline provide her with a wheelchair, and that the family member she is visiting will take care of arranging things. She had great confidence in airport staff to get her safely to her destination, and said the the airlines had always treated her very well. I can see that they would because she is so lively, cheerful, thoughtful and knowledgeable. As they say attitude is everything.
This then led me to do some research on traveling as a senior with the need of assistance. Just what are some of the best practices? Here are a few suggestions.
1. Pack your bags as lightly as possible so they can be carry on luggage. All pertinent papers, documents, medical cards, credit cards, contact information need to be kept handy.
2. As a senior there are certain rules airline have which allow flexibility on bringing your medications. Have the person planning your trip review them so they are up to date on what rules need to be followed now.
3. When you are traveling with the need for oxygen, a wheelchair or other devices have them prearranged. You may consider using airport wheelchairs (as my client plans to do), and bringing along your walker if you need to use one.
4. Have an ID bracelet on you and if not then, have your identification and emergency contact information in a pocket on you. Laminating a small card with the pertinent information to fit in your pocket may be helpful.
And then there are new rules coming about your identification for boarding a domestic flight. Here is a great article with some details:
5. All itinerary needs to be distributed to your receiving parties and you will of course have a set of your own. This will allow other eyes to take a peak and see if there are any inconsistencies. This way they are corrected way before your day and time of departure.
6. Give yourself ample travel time before the trip to get to the airport, to get through security and other check points. This tip is one that the 90 year olds could actually teach the rest of us a thing or two about. I can't tell you that I have ever met anyone from this age group who was not fierce in the practice of being punctual.
7. Communication on the day of departure is key. You must confirm with loved ones so they know that you are on the flight, and what your expected arrival time is especially if a flight is delayed for any reason.
8. If you are parked in the wheelchair by airport or airline staff at someplace less traveled in the terminal building ask to be moved to a location where you can be easily seen. When they are changing shifts the person taking you off the flight may not be the same person to move you to your proper pick up area. You don't want to be forgotten there because the change of shift did not know that you were waiting to be moved to the proper point.
9. It's a good idea to have a fully charged phone with the phone numbers of those with whom you need to connect already programmed in your phone. This way you don't have to remember their individual numbers. Just know that to reach grandchild Celia for example you push the #1, son-in-law Lenny push the #2 and so on.
Enjoy further reading on the topic of senior travel with this article from the New York Times:
This list is just the beginning and each person and family will have their preferences. Seniors still love to travel and airlines are always looking for ways to make the trip a better experience.
What are your suggestions, ideas, experiences? Would love to know in the comments.
Ruth Y. Webster