Vacationing as You Age
Almost everyone enjoys the opportunity for a nice holiday. It’s a great opportunity for a change of scenery, climate and/or routine. However, at different points in life, leaving your place of residence for an extended period of time can become problematic.
By Deb Jenkins
Be it due to health, mobility, finances, the need for a travelling companion or the fear of a tiring trip, a successful getaway takes time to plan. Even the purchase of travel insurance can sometimes be an issue, whether because of health conditions or cost, after you have reached a certain age.
But don’t give up! It’s true that vacationing might not necessarily be the same for you as it once was—it could in fact be better.
This article offers a few alternatives to help make vacationing for you and yours a more pleasant and enjoyable experience.
One idea for a non-traditional vacation might be a day trip as opposed to a week’s vacation. These mini-trips could occur monthly on a specific day (third Wednesday of every month, for example). Old-fashioned Sunday drives are something we may have been used to from childhood that can be stress-free and quite enjoyable. Destinations might include the old neighbourhood, an old school, a favourite ice cream stand, a specific garden or park, or a visit to an old friend. There is comfort in the familiar, especially if a cognitive impairment such as dementia is involved.
In lieu of driving around, a one-location stop might be the ticket. An example would be a park or conservation area where the whole family can get together for a picnic and some fun. If there are young children, a beach or park with a playground offers something for everyone. (Be sure there is a shade tree!) Food can either be made beforehand or purchased at the site to ensure everyone’s work is limited, cleanup is simple and visiting time is maximized.
Another option is to get away for the weekend or several nights. Put a budget together as well as a limit on the distance you wish to travel to your destination. Travel agents can help you find a suitable destination, and can offer package deals and other suggestions once they know your boundaries.
Bus trips can be a nice way to travel, especially if you are travelling alone or prefer not to drive. These trips are often “all-inclusive,” with the exception of spending money, and offer a worry-free way to explore. Examples of destinations might be historic sites, concerts, city tours or shopping excursions.
Non-city dwellers might like to head to a big city, while those who live in a large centre might prefer some time out in a more serene country atmosphere. If that’s your fancy, check out countryside bed and breakfasts, farm vacations and little out-of-the-way inns. Just be sure to check any accessibility and special dietary requirements before you head off the beaten path.
Travelling companions for these destinations might be: able grandchildren, nieces, nephews, or a friend who is compatible age-wise. Friends often know each other’s needs and are often more patient with one another than younger people, who may want to go at a faster pace than you’d like.
Show and tell
If a trip abroad was a favourite destination when you or your loved one was younger or more able, here are a few alternatives to actually “being there.” For example, if a holiday in London, England, was a big hit with great memories, a “Tea Party” could be planned either in the home, at a care facility or in a park. Include traditional British fare such as scones, other biscuits, tea and jams. If the party is indoors and the necessary equipment is available, you could add a “Walking Tour of England” DVD to the agenda, to allow people to reminisce and get lost in the sights and sounds of the destination. If pictures of the family holiday are available, include them in the show or in an album. Top off the day with a supper of fish and chips or shepherd’s pie.
DVDs and travelogues can be borrowed from your local public library or purchased at a local bookstore. Be sure to plan ahead (you may need to reserve or preorder your choice) to avoid disappointment.
What to bring
When you travel, things to remember are an emergency plan should anything go amiss, a current list of your medications as well as a medication supply that is more than enough to last you until the vacation ends, and emergency contact numbers for your next of kin, power of attorney and doctors. If you will be travelling outside the country, of course, be sure to have a current and valid passport, as well as any visas if necessary. Travel insurance is always a good idea, but it may be quite expensive (and remember that insurance does not usually cover pre-existing illnesses).
Wherever you go, whatever you do, savor the moments of your holiday, and enjoy the people you connect with, whether old friends or new acquaintances. Vacations create wonderful memories no matter how short or how ordinary they might be.
Deb Jenkins, RN, BScN, MN. Advanced Practice Nurse, longstanding LTC Nurse (Former Best Practice Coordinator for LTC at the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care).