Aging Parents and Airports: Happy Flying or Headache-Producing (Part 2)

At Airports Body Scanners and Hearing Difficulties Can Pose Problems

The Body Scanner. Body Search:
Potential Problems for Aging Parents

English: Millimeter wave technology. Gen 2 sca...

I fly often, have an organized way of packing my carry-on, efficiently placing things on the conveyor belt and going through the screening process without problems or leaving things behind. Driver’s license and boarding pass are checked at the first security check; then comes the conveyer belt for carry-ons and a scramble to put driver’s license and boarding pass someplace where they won’t get lost.

I habitually jam my driver’s license into my wallet first chance and stick my boarding pass in my pocket since it never bothered the metal detector. But last time I was greeted by the body scanner, not the metal detector. The boarding pass evidently was the “extra” (I think you can have one or two whatevers) that sent me for the body search.

I worry about old people who must endure a body search for several reasons: First, they can easily have something like forgotten Kleenex in the arm of a sweater or their boarding pass in a pocket, putting them into the body search mode. Second, older people are more modest than younger people. ‘Nuf said. Third, for me that day, there was time pressure.

I explained my time pressure to the TSA female examiner (there are two–I guess for legal reasons). I asked if she could go as quickly as possible. She had to explain each and every place she was going to pat down or up and why. And when I most politely told her explanations weren’t necessary I just needed to finish and get going, she insisted the explanations are a necessary part of the process.

My thoughts immediately redirected themselves to older people and their reactions to such an experience: Dignity? Humiliation? Disorientation? Rising blood pressure or worse due to Anxiety or Time Pressure?  Can aging parents be blamed for never wanting to fly again?

And isn’t that a shame!

Now another potential (but noninvasive) problem for elders with hearing problems: Announcements Over Airport Loudspeakers

Especially when people are distracted, announcements get missed. But what happens when the people announcing have accents that lack clarity when coming through the speakers or are difficult to understand? Or they speak too quickly and an essential part of the message is missed?

Last year I was standing by a well-dressed, much older woman, who suddenly realized boarding for her plane had been called sometime before. As she struggled to get to the front of the line a strong young man questioned which flight she needed to board. Realizing the urgency of her getting into the front of the line, he blocked for her gently guiding her to the front of the waiting people. A good samaritan, indeed. A most grateful older woman traveling alone.

We try to help parents age well; we want to expand an older person’s world, not shrink it. I’ll be in two airports with two flights planned next week; and will try to find a TSA person who can provide suggestions for making old people’s travel less stressful.

Related: Aging Parents and Airports: Happy Flying or Headache-producing Part 1
Airports, Aging Parents and Elders: Happy or Pain-producing 2015
Aging Parents and the Airport Body Scanner

Changing often: “Of Current Interest” (right sidebar). Links to timely information and research from top universities, plus some fun stuff–to help parents age well.

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