We're living longer, healthier lives as a nation. And older
Americans are using their leisure time and hefty disposable incomes to see the
world. People over 60 now spend more time traveling for pleasure than ever
before, according to a study by the CDC in Atlanta.
"We drive so much that it seems like we're always on the
road going somewhere or going back home," says Linda Smith, 59, a retired
teacher who lives in Cincinnati. "Sometimes I think we try to travel too
much, in fact.
When it comes to aging, Bebe Shaw didn't hit the genetic lottery. Her mother died from congestive heart failure, her father of a heart condition. The younger of her two brothers had a heart attack at age 52, and her younger sister is on the verge of congestive heart failure. Shaw, 69, has high cholesterol -- a serious risk factor for heart disease.
With such a checkered health history, she's not taking any chances. "I am an advocate of exercise and diet," says Shaw, who works as a paralegal in Ocala,...
Smith and her husband, Chris, 62, spend about a week per month
traveling from their home in Ohio to their vacation home in northern Michigan.
They also travel frequently by air all over the U.S. -- from New York to
Florida to Los Angeles -- to visit their children and their friends.
"More and more older persons are healthier at later ages
now," says Robert Butler, MD, president of the International Longevity
Center in New York City. "Much of the traveling they do reflects their
stage in life. They have the resources and time to pursue interests they've
never had time to partake of."
Whether driving, flying, or kicking back on a cruise ship,
people over 60 need to take special precautions to make sure the stresses of
travel -- both physical and financial -- don't damage their health.
Doctor, Insurance Agent, Travel Agent
Though most travel experts agree that the same travel safety
advice that applies to anyone also applies to older Americans, they stress that
many seniors have special concerns -- medications, diets, insurance needs,
mobility issues -- that can require special planning.
"Older people really need to do three things before they
embark on long trips: see a doctor to discuss health concerns and update
vaccinations; talk to an insurance agent to get travelers' insurance; and
discuss any mobility issues with a travel agent to make sure they will be able
to physically reach the specific sites in mind," says Hal Norvell, an
expert in travel for people over 50. He works for the AARP in Washington.
"Realistic expectations are important when planning a
trip," says Norvell. "You don't want to get to the Mayan ruins at
Calakmul in Mexico to find that people with mobility issues can't get to it.
That's why consulting with a reputable travel agent is so important. Planning
around health issues can make a trip so much more successful."