There's a lot of life in our old folk and, as someone who takes her elderly father on holiday each year, I can vouch for how much fun they can be. But to benefit from the fun, you need to make sure they are well prepared for their getaway and that you plan a trip that is not going to challenge their fitness levels so that you can all have a thoroughly enjoyable time away together on holiday.
I have always saved a week of my holiday each year to take with my parents and we have had the best of times together the world over. Sadly, my Mum died five years ago and, just a couple of weeks before she died, my Dad had a massive heart attack. After he started to recover from the heart attack, his lust for life was greatly diminished and his world shrank to the confines of his house for a time.
He was in dire need of a reminder that there was a lot of life yet to be lived. So I checked with his doctor that he'd be up to some overseas travel, which I was assured he was, and so our great Dad and Daughter adventures began... For the last five years I've been whisking him away on holiday. We've been to Tenerife, Portugal, boating on the Norfolk Broads, off on a cruise around Italy, Dubrovnik, as well as to Dad's old holiday favourite, St Ives in Cornwall where he and my Mum had their honeymoon 68 years ago. We are pictured, above, on the terrace of the Pedn Olva Hotel in St Ives, in the space which was the honeymoon suite all those years ago when my parents honeymooned there!
The therapy of travel worked. Dad rediscovered his zest for life after his first trip away in 62 years without his soul mate, my Mum. That was five years ago at the ripe old age of 85, when we went off with my best friend, Sue, to party in Tenerife. That holiday also spurred him on to get himself a voluntary job! However, he is 90 years old now, he does have a serious heart condition and, as a result of his heart attack, he is a little unsteady on his feet. That doesn't mean he can't still enjoy a good getaway; it simply means that I have to plan our holidays carefully, being mindful of Dad's needs and physical capabilities. Here are some of my top tips to ensure a holiday with your elderly relatives and friends is one to remember for all the right reasons.
Tip 1 - Top to toe comfort
Before you promise your elderly relative or friend a great holiday, you must make sure they are fit enough to undertake the travel, especially if they have a particular health condition and you plan to go overseas. Book them a health check with the doctor and get confirmation they are good to go.
Older people often neglect their basic health needs. For example, I noticed my Dad started limping badly just before one of our holidays. Much to my relief, it turned out to be something the chiropodist sorted out in a single visit, and he skipped around on holiday, pain free.
Tip 2 - The boring essentials
Insurance is never so needed as when you are taking an older person with compromised health away on holiday, especially if travelling overseas. First, make sure they can get travel insurance cover and, if they can, that it is affordable. I found it challenging to get cover for an 89 year old with a bad heart. Staysure was prepared to take him on, and at a relatively competitive rate. It is worth every penny when I see how much his holidays mean to him.
So you have the insurance and, to reduce the likelihood of needing to use it, you should carry out a medication check. If your elderly traveller is on prescription meds you must make a note, on your phone and on paper, of all the medications taken together with the dosages, to take with you. If the medication is lost while out on holiday, or you run out, you can then replace them. Check for yourself that your travel companion has more than enough medication to last for the duration of the holiday. My Dad has a tendency to assure me has, but when I check for myself I find he will be a day's set of tablets short because he thinks he'll get a new prescription as soon as he gets home! He has a spray to use if his chest begins to tighten - I make sure we take two of those away with us - one he carries in his pocket each day, while I carry the spare, just in case...
Always travel with prescription medications in your hand luggage and keep a note of that prescription with you at all times.
My Dad's disability badge and documentation always takes the worry out of parking close to the destination amenities so he doesn't have far to walk to get to where it's all happening. His disability badge always tops his holiday packing check list!
Tip 3 - Up, up and away
You're at the airport and because I know my Dad is wobbly on his legs, tires easily and can't carry heavy items, such as hand luggage, I always book assisted boarding when we are flying. You have to book it in advance and there is sometimes an additional fee to be paid, but having flown with Dad without it, I am happy to pay for it. It starts at check-in; Dad got a wheelchair and both he and I were fast-tracked through check-in. You board first and, if you have reduced mobility, hydraulic lifts are available to lift you into the plane so you don't have to tackle the plane steps.
There are so many kinds of assistance, for disabled solo travellers, the blind, the deaf - every kind of help is there for the asking. Just listen out on landing for the disembarkation directions for those booked with assisted boarding; we were so busy chatting excitedly about our holiday, we missed the announcement on one of our flights and we definitely missed the ease of the lifts and wheelchairs!
Tip 4 - Let them join the party!
Most importantly, never make your elderly traveller feel like a burden, as if they are holding you back. It will upset them and make them feel uncomfortable. Plan activities that you are sure they can manage comfortably.
a) If mobility is an issue, check you are going somewhere flat and that the accommodation is not accessed by lots of stairs without a lift, or that the local area is not too hilly.
b) Book excursions that they can do - such as coastal boat trips. We have been out on whale watching boat trips and touring the coves and caves of the Algarve - I've found the staff have been happy to give my Dad extra help getting on and off the boat - but I slip off to investigate in advance while Dad is sat having an ice cream so he is not embarrassed by being made a 'special case', as he terms it, in front of others.
c) Don't assume your old Mum, Dad, Granny or Grandad will be early to bed... My Dad stayed up until the early hours on holiday with my friend and myself, matching us drink for drink, and he was the only one not looking for headache pills the next morning. It was a revelation!
Tip 5 - Out and about
We enjoyed full days, as well as full nights, out and about with our octogenarian. We did this by following some simple rules to keep Dad well and raring to go.
a) We made sure that there were cafés and bars close to where we were exploring, and carried water, so we had access to regular rest stops and refreshments.
b) When shopping, we found somewhere for Dad to sit so he didn't get over tired. Many holiday destinations have leafy shopping boulevards with benches in the shade of the trees where Dad was happy to sit and make new friends while we shopped.
c) We made sure that we gave Dad a good 30 minutes after eating to digest his meal before we got him up and off again, plus we ensured that our evening meal was taken early, rather than just before bedtime - older people often have problems with indigestion and, after a meal, they tend to feel tired for the next half an hour.
d) Rent mobility aids at your destination, or when visiting attractions such as stately homes and gardens, ask if they offer the use of wheelchairs and mobility scooters for the duration of your visit.
e) Ensure they have sufficient sun protection, such as sun hats, sunglasses and comfy clothes and shoes - my Dad will opt for style over comfort so I always check his holiday wardrobe before we leave, it's not unlike having a teenager to take away!
Tip 6 - Happy travels
Following these rules, we have enjoyed wonderful times together out on holiday. My Father-In-Law is the same age as my Dad and lives with similar health issues. We found that the 'Dads' had much in common and once we planned our trip for one octogenarian, it was just as easy to take two away on holiday with us. Timeshare accommodation is very spacious and, affording considerable privacy, has been ideal for our holiday needs. We have also rented cottages - and even a boat on the Norfolk Broads - to holiday with our 'Dads'. They got along really well and it was certainly a case of the more, the merrier!
Timeshare is great accommodation for the elderly, as the apartments are spacious and the resorts offer many on-site facilities, such as sun loungers around the pool, bars, restaurants, shops and entertainment. It was sometimes a struggle to get my parents to leave the resort! To see where you could be enjoying a family holiday, just click on our RCI Directory resort link below.
If you own timeshare and have always returned to your home resort, it might be time for you to broaden your holiday horizons and start seeing some more of the world. You can join RCI to start your own world adventures in just a few simple steps that start by clicking on the link below.