Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Travel Tips for Senior Citizens

The following guest post was contributed by Christine Howell who frequently writes about Online Health Care Degrees and college related topics for Online College Guru, an online college directory and comparison website.

Now that you have more time on your hands as you've reached the "golden years," you find that you may want to travel more so you can see the things you missed all those years while working on a career and raising the kids. Of course life has changed for you and you're not that "spring chicken" anymore, but that doesn't mean you still can't enjoy yourself. Here are a few tips to make your traveling a lot more enjoyable and secure.

Do some pre-planning before your trip:

1. Contact your travel agent about where you are thinking of going. A lot of travel agencies cater to seniors these days.

2. Make sure to find out about medical facilities in the area where you are planning to go.

3. Do research on the climate where you will be visiting.

4. If you are traveling with a wheelchair or guide dog, make sure these can be accommodated.

5. Think about purchasing travel insurance and make sure that it will cover any pre-existing illness that you might have.

When packing, keep these things in mind:

1. Make sure that your carryon bag contains everything you will need during your flight, if you are flying.

2. Always make sure that your carryon bag contains a medical kit, which should include everything from your medications to band aids.

3. Try to use suitcases that have wheels on them for an easier commute.

Traveling with a disability:

1. It might be wise to call the airports and airlines to make sure that your disability can be taken care of.

2. Make all reservations in advance to save time and hassles.

3. Book direct flights whenever possible.

4. Contact the local tourist information center at your destination to get information about their public transportation system.

5. If you are going outside of the country, make sure to find out from the embassy about any regulations there might be about wheelchairs, guide dogs and medicines.

Pre-trip medical checkups:

1. Always make sure to get a physical before leaving on a trip and ask your doctor about anything special you may need to do or know.

2. Discuss your trip plan with your doctor so they are aware of what to expect. That way they will be able to give you sound medical advice based on what information you have given them.
If you are a diabetic, it's important that you find out from your doctor how to stagger your medication in different time zones.

3. Make sure to get flu and pneumonia shots before leaving for any extended trip.

4. If you are going somewhere that is known for having a high ratio of infectious disease, make sure to be vaccinated accordingly.

When traveling with medications:

1. Make sure you discuss your medications with your doctor so you know what you should be taking.

2 Get a letter from your doctor explaining what the drugs are you are taking and why you are taking them.

3. Always leave the drugs in their original containers so as not to cause confusion and suspicion, especially to other countries.

4. If you have to inject your medication, make sure to bring plenty of syringes of your own with you and not rely on places to buy them at your destination.

Clothing while traveling:

1. Make sure that the clothing you are traveling in is loose fit and comfortable. Wearing comfortably fitting clothing allows for better blood circulation, which is important when you may be sitting for long periods of time.

2. Always avoid tight socks or stocking.

Important information you should carry with you:

1. All of your doctors' contact information.

2. Travel agent's number if you booked your trip with an agency.

3. Airline's contact number.

4. Number for the U.S. Embassy if you are traveling out of the country.

5. Emergency contact numbers.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

New Hearing Aids: Will They Help?

Yesterday, my new heraring aids were delivered and fitted. Unlike my old ones, which I wore on and off for about six years, these fit behind the ear, with only a little plastic tube going inside the ear.

I've learned a lot about hearing aids over the years: (1) They are expensive, and Medicare does not pay for them. (2) No hearing aid can restore absolutely normal hearing. (3) Sometimes they can be more trouble than help, especially in a place where you'd rather not hear the heating system, noisy neighbors, or other unwelcome sounds. (4) They seem to be a sign of old age; some elders reject them long after they become isolated by silence. (5) In-the-ear models like my old ones can react to heat and humidity (as mine did in Egypt) and short out. Repairs are expensive.

So why have I resolved to try again? The old aids are worn out; one worked on occasion, the other not at all. Part of it is noticing those around me at The Clare. Trying to share a table with three other hard-of-hearing resdidents becomes a comedy of errors punctuated by "What did you say? Can you speak louder?" I've found myself just nodding, as if I've heard everything. This is enough to make me even more of a loner than I am naturally.

Young people often complain about elders refusing to wear hearing aids, implying that doing so would solve all communication problems. 'Taint so. Perfect hearing is often a dream, even with the best hearing aids available. Be careful: don't attribute difficult conversations with seniors to lack of intelligence or knowledge or to crankiness. Despite hearing aids, we sometimes just can't get it, especially if you have an unfamiliar accent. Even British accents on TV seem to bother me, hearing aids or not. Be sure to speak slowly and clearly.

Anyway, I got the latest and supposedly best digital aids this time; I have several fittings to go, and I've had some uncomfortable sound feedback. So far, I do think I hear better, but I'll need to try the aids out in social situations and get more adjustments before I can make a true evaluation. In the meantime, I'm hoping to become more aware of what's going on around me. I'm hoping that cocktail parties cease to be annoying experiences. Hearing aids won't make me a social butterfly, but if I'm lucky, they'll help a bit. I certainly hope so.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

There's Something About Afternoon Tea

An old friend treated me to afternoon tea at the Peninsula Hotel for my birthday yesterday. Somehow, afternoon tea brings to mind hats and white gloves and society ladies wasting time on quiet afternoons, but of course things have changed.

While everyone was well, if casually, dressed on this Monday afternoon (no hats or white gloves in sight), there was still an air of elegance in the large room. Even from the second floor, the Chicago view was nice, but it doesn't equal the view from my own thirty-fifth floor apartment two blocks away.

The Peninsula is described as a "super luxury" hotel, actually quite typical of hotels in this area. I couldn't afford to stay there. Still, this little taste of luxury made me feel good. A small string emsemble played soft music from a balcony, and the service was attentive.

The food was served on the usual three-tier arrangement of plates, and it all looked very good. There were small sandwiches, mini-quiches, pastries, and of course scones with all the usual accompaniments. The tea assortment was immense, and not knowing the difference, except between black and green, I asked what the most popular green tea was. I no longer remember the name, but it was good tea.

The room was well-populated, but not crowded, and I could carry on a conversation with my friend quite easily, in spite of my hearing loss and the fact that my new hearing aids have not arrived yet. My friend has similar hearing problems, although she's more than ten years younger than I. She's still active as a teacher (at Columbia College, Chicago) and a writer. Her world is quite different than mine now, and it was interesting to reminisce.

I guess I'm quite isolated from the local social scene, so this tea was a chance to see how other people live. For one thing, they must be rich. Tea for one cost $38! I guess elegance is fine once in a while, especially since my friend paid. I've survived another birthday, and I hope I'll be mobile enough to celebrate more of them.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Another Birthday!

Another Birthday! I really don't look forward to birthdays anymore, now that the number has crept up (this is my 77th). Birthdays were never very special in my family, at least until my late mother reached her nineties. Then the scattered family gathered to wish her well, at least for as long as she was in shape to appreciate our visits. We didn't celebrate her final birthday, her ninety-fifth, because she wouldn't have recognized us or appreciated the gesture. We gathered later in the year for her funeral.

As for me, I don't remember anyone making a fuss about my birthday. In later years, however, two old friends have made a point of taking me out to dinner on the occasion, one on the day and one the day before or after. I have really appreciated that. This year, one of them is taking me to the nearby Penninsula Hotel for afternoon tea; that will be a pleasant change, although it may ruin my diet. My only other planned activity is getting a seasonal flu shot here in the building.

Not being an especially friendly or social person, I've never had a large group of friends give me a surprise birthday party, and I've never expected one. My few relatives are all in other states. I'm content to be here at The Clare, alone yet not alone. My birthday somehow makes me uncomfortable (my late husband used to give me a card and take me out to dinner), but at least I'll get a chance to talk to an old friend (who lives in the suburbs, by the way). I have no complaints. I've had a couple of good wishes from Internet friends. Thank you. Let's hope that I live to celebrate more birthdays in good health!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Taking My Driving Test

My birthday was fast approaching (actually, it's tommorow), and one effect of dreading the aging process seemed to be postponing renewal of my driver's license. As the deadline loomed, I began to analyze my reluctance.

Despite my accident-free record, I could not just renew via email or take the vision test and a new picture and get an extension of four more years, as usual. I had to take a driving test, which meant that I could not renew my license downtown, but had to drive to the far north side. For obvious reasons, no road tests are given in Chicago's crowded Loop.

There were other issues, too. Do I really need to own a car? It's expensive, thanks to insurance, licensing, and parking costs, and I drive as little as once a week. Am I an old and incompetent driver? I hope not. The "giving up driving" dilemma seems to hit all elders sooner or later, but I'm only turning 77! I still hope to know when it's time to give up, since I don't have a family to decide for me. Anyway, I finally decided to take the test and see what happened.

I realized that, as far as I can remember, I had only taken one road test, on the occasion of my originally getting a license. I started driving later in life than many do, but that happened in the late 1950's. No wonder I was terrified! Would I be asked to parallel park (something I've never been good at)? Would the examiner make me nervous? I approached the exam with anxiety.

The first positive thing I noticed was that senior citizens were allowed to go to the head of the line in the crowded facility where we took our vision tests. I passed that, but what I feared most was still ahead. After a fairly long wait in a line of cars, I was relieved to see a seemingly nice young woman enter my car for the test. It turned out that she was, indeed, nice and non-threatening.

The good news is that the test was easy. I'm good at using turn signals, stopping at stop signs, and observing traffic. I didn't have to parallel park. I managed to avoid the cones when I had to back up (something I don't do particulartly well). I passed, had a ridiculously bad photo taken, and soon had my new license good for four years. I was elated!

By the time my license runs out next time, I'll be over eighty (if still alive), and I may well be ready to give up driving by then. I've already vowed to make my 2003 Mini Cooper my last car. It's easy to get along without a car here in the middle of the city, but I guess I had to prove that I can still drive. I'm glad things turned out as they did.