Airports /Travel for Aging Parents and Elders: Happy or Pain Producing? 2015

Young travelers may easily navigate airports but it’s… 
…Not so easy for aging parents and old people.

Many elders are obviously not at their peak physically–with
–poorer vision,
–poorer hearing
–less energy
than younger travelers.

TSA instructions that include lifting wheeled carry-ons to a conveyer belt for inspection can be problematical for elders with weak muscles. Taking a wheeled carry-on up and down escalators challenges balance. The myriad directional signs for gates can be confusing. Long walks to distant gates wear elders out. And important loudspeaker announcements–especially made by those with foreign accents–are often not heard or not understood. 

Is it any wonder that  aging parent and old people are hesitant to visit children and grandchildren these days if flying is involved?

Easing the Stress.

1.  Wheel chairs. After complaining to a friend about the excessively long walks to boarding areas and my decision to carry on my carefully packed, overhead-size, wheeled carry-on because I dislike waiting for luggage and risking having it lost, she said “Why don’t you request a wheel chair?”

Simple answer: “They’re reserved for mobility-challenged and older people.”

Wrong! as this NY Times article, A Few Airport Passengers Use Wheel Chairs to Avoid Airport Lines,” points out.  That said, pride and not gaming the system prevail for most. And there’s still macho in old men.

Dad didn’t use a wheel chair until he was 91; and only then because he had an excessively long wait for his small case to come down the conveyer belt at JFK the year before. He felt he was imposing on us and didn’t want a repeat of that experience. .

One needn’t be officially “physically challenged” to request a wheelchair. I’m told no one can be refused. Thus, a wheel chair eliminates walking huge distances, an elevator replaces the escalator, and the attendant accompanies the passenger through the TSA process and into the boarding area.

A TSA officer told me that should an alarm be triggered at the scanner, people 75+ in wheel chairs have a special pat-down (I wasn’t told what it is). The wheel chair attendant waits throughout and once at the gate, seniors are helped onto the plane at boarding time. A tip is in order, but not required. Well-spent money in my opinion.

2.  TSA PreCheck and Global Entry. Having TSA PreCheck expedites the check-in process with special, faster lines in the US, while Global Entry expedites the process throughout the world. (When accepted for Global Entry status [flying to other countries], PreCheck is automatically included.). Fill out the PreCheck form on-line or the Global Entry form, following instructions. (I’ve personally found PreCheck a big help in getting through US/TSA security much faster.) Both require an interview.

3.  Normal screening procedures for those 75 and over (who don’t have PreCheck): Click link for frequently asked questions and answers, applicable to those 75 and olderThere are some advantages to being older!

This is getting too long. Will continue with Part 2 tomorrow—-no, Tuesday.

Related:

First Click Delta Special Needs Facts, then click “Wheel Chair Services”

First Click Airport Boarding Assistance, then click “Wheel Chair Assistance.”

Aging Parents and Airports: Happy Flying or Headache Producing–part 1 (of 2)

Check out “Newsworthy” (right sidebar). Links to timely tips, information and research from top universities and respected professionals–to help parents age well.

Far Away on Father’s Day: Tips to Lessen the Trials of Travel for Old and Not-so-Old

Traveling many miles comfortably is hard work, especially for aging parents. That said, adult children coming to visit makes most Dads happy and proud. Is there a better Father’s Day Gift?

DSCN0789Gone are the days of short walks to the boarding gate, and a feeling of relaxation and security when most adults stepped onto an airplane. It  was the norm in the 20th century.

As Father’s day approaches I’m thinking how much my Dad loved when I returned to my childhood home where he and Mom still lived. That was pre-9/11. I’m also thinking about Sr. Advisor R’s flying “alone” back to NY three years ago for our anniversary–at age 98–and about the enormous effort it must have been.

First–Re: Air Travel

Equipped with TSA PreCheck* to ease TSA’s screening, and my fit-into-the-overhead case and under-seat-size soft-sided case, I embarked on an 8-day trip to the NW with my husband and returned to NYC last night.

Shortly before leaving NYC a friend, hearing how happy I was to have TSA precheck and how unhappy I was about needing to navigate my carry-on through seemingly miles of airport corridors, suggested a wheelchair. “I use them sometimes, when I’ve got a lot of stuff and don’t want to wear myself out before even getting on the plane,” she (not yet a “senior”) said. If Dad wouldn’t consider using a wheel chair until he was in his 90’s. why would I at a much younger age?

Is it pride—or stupidity? I wondered to myself. IMG_4167 With so many elderly parents living far from theirIMG_4169 adult children, Father’s Day, as well as other holidays and milestone events, necessitates travel if families want to be together.

Not knowing the answer to the specific question above, and because this

will be too long, this coming Saturday’s post offers strategies to ease the situation: current TSA information to make air travel more user-friendly and suggestions to help aging parents and elders we care about. In short, order wheel chairs ahead of time and go online to sign up for TSA PreCheck or Global Entry. Details to follow.

*November 2015. 5 months and many cross-country flight later I–and friends–have found in some airports that the TSA PreCheck lines are as long as the regular lines and some terminals offering PreCheck still require the same inconvenient screening of non-PreCheck. That said, PreCheck is usually preferable, but don’t get stuck in a long PreCheck line if you can see a shorter one is available and you don’t mind the inconvenience of taking out your laptops, liquids, removing shoes etc.