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Reassessing Elder Travel Thanks to Ronni Bennett

Reassessing Elder Travel Thanks to Ronni Bennett
One of my favorite bloggers is Ronni Bennett at As Time Goes By: What It’s Really Like to Get Older.
Ronni has so darned much helpful information and comments for all of us who are older. She keeps an official list of Elder Bloggers and even has a daily feature where guest writers do some story telling. Her blog is her vocation, I think, and I am grateful she has that vocation. I run hot and cold at Sacred Ordinary and I wish I could crank out more helpful or insightful stuff for my readers and actually to meet my own criteria as using blogging as my daily writing practice. But, like we say in the journal keeping world, "No judgments, no comparisons and give up our need to understand."

I was particularly interested in the post Ronni made today called The Potential for Elder Friendly Skies which spun off of her earlier post on Elders and the Unfriendly Skies. She writes about how difficult it is for older people to travel and she has an excellent link to a film clip about younger people simulating what it feels like to be an older person in an airport. Brava, Ronni.

I found myself writing a very lengthy comment at Ronni’s site today because flying has become such a huge hassle at my age. Part of the problem is I can’t walk as fast, I can’t pick heavy objects up and hoist them up above, and the walk from check-in to the actual gates, at least at LAX and most large airports, is a long, long way. Also, most people are impatient with older people although I’ll admit I sure met my share of utterly cranky seniors this summer. No wonder people are prejudiced about older people if these cranky ones were any example of what to expect in the golden years.

This is what I commented in reply to Ronni’s post today. I’m inserting it here because it really is relevant to what a huge hassle (and a joy with lots of memories, too) it was this summer going in and out of the airports I did. I also want to encourage you to share your “experience, strength and hope” in travel situations. We need good traveling elder role models.

Ronni, thanks so much for this post and the earlier one on Elders and the Unfriendly Skies. Having traveled by air several times this summer, I can sure identify with what you wrote about. I'm a perky 70-year-old, too, so I can only imagine how difficult it must be for those who are less mobile than I am.

In Seattle in August, I was going through security and the woman in front of me, probably “only” in her 50s, was in leg braces and using a walker. She told me that her husband recently divorced her and she was adjusting to being totally responsible for herself. She took off her braces to go through security and she had to hang on to things to get through. No one seemed remotely helpful except one young man, but he was in a rush to catch a flight. By then the walker was going through the detectors and she ultimately hobbled through security and found a chair to sit in to get her braces back on. She did hold up the line a long time, I’ll admit. A TSA person told her that next time she should ask for "special treatment," but the woman replied that she had done that twice before and it ended up being a nightmare; she once missed a flight because they couldn't process her in a timely fashion.

I had been feeling older than the hills that day because I was carrying on a suitcase and my laptop and those ramps in Seattle seemed endless. It was damned hard work, but I stopped feeling sorry for myself after speaking with her. Those business warriors and pushy people who need instant gratification aren't always that helpful. But some are, thank God. Random acts of kindness and all that. I always ask someone to put my carry-ons up for me in the overhead compartment and people are always kind when I ask. Some volunteer before I ask so I know I must look like someone who needs help.

I flew in smaller planes this summer, too, that did require two flights of portable stairs to get in and out of the plane. But I'll admit that the Jet Blue crew in particular were extremely helpful. I love Jet Blue!

Then there is the airport shuttle from the outlying parking lots. I'm frugal by nature and park my car and do the airport shuttle when it will save me money. I can't get my own suitcases up in the bus anymore. Private shuttle drivers are usually very helpful because they know they will be tipped, I guess, but the LAX public shuttle drivers are not helpful at all.

Sometimes I take taxis to and from the airport (or bug someone to take me if I'm leaving/coming at a decent hour). Most taxi drivers are very helpful, but I had one really difficult man this summer who gave me attitude. I can't help but think it was age discrimination. I do tip well, but I got the distinct feeling from this guy that he thought the old lady was going to stiff him.

My two living sisters, both in their 80s, have stopped flying and/or traveling at all, even on the tour buses they used to love. It just takes too much energy, they say--and I always project and wonder what I'll be like when I get to be their age. One uses a walker and the other a cane. Yet, I know other older people who bite the bullet and keep on traveling in spite of the energy it takes. I suppose a lot of it is mindset—and how fearful, and incapacitated you become as you age.

I am going to Greece and Turkey in late fall with a tour company and I know a few of the people I am going with. I am assuming that the company will handle all the difficult things--thank God. I haven't been across the ocean since 1990.

I won't have to rent a car, for instance, on this overseas trip. I am sick and tired of driving all over heck and gone in places where I don't know where I am--all by myself, especially at night and in bad weather. I’m divorced so most of my travels are alone. Some people find driving fun; I do not. Now--if I were rich, drivers would take me everywhere. I have wealthy friends with drivers and access to private planes. Money passes hands and everything becomes very easy. Am I jealous? You bet! Maybe I have to stop being so damned frugal.

But, I also believe in the power of positive thinking--and feeling my fear and doing it anyway.
As long as I'm whining, however, one more thing. I used to bounce back to work the next morning after returning from travel. Now it takes me a few days to fully get my energy back and my sisters tell me I haven’t seen anything yet.

But, hey, I woke up on the right side of the grass today and I do have the resources to travel. I imagine there are a lot of seniors who would travel if they could. Why does so much of life depend on money?


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