Making Travel Easier for the Elderly


Ruthanne Terrero at the Monte-Carlo Beach Club with others
I am shown here at the Monte-Carlo Beach Club with Floreana Rubega, guest relations manager, Hotel de Paris; Carol Maldonado and Nathalie Debonnet, The Leading Hotels of the World; Daniele Garcelon, GM of the Monte-Carlo Beach Club; and Sylvie Cristin, director of leisure sales, Monte-Carlo SBM Hotels and Casinos.


On a recent cruise I took a motorcoach excursion around an ancient city in Spain. We hadn’t gotten very far when an elderly woman in front of us on the coach yelled to the tour guide that her husband needed to get to a hospital. We started to pull over but then the husband in question said he was all right, he’d taken a pill and was fine. Later on that same excursion, the couple asked if they could stay on the coach while the rest of the group embarked on a two-hour walking tour. The answer was an apologetic, “no,” since the driver needed to take the vehicle somewhere else during the break.

This was clearly a once vital, globetrotting duo that no longer finds the world as easy to navigate as they once did. Old age has crept up on them and they’re finding out trip by trip that just a few steps on a bus or an uneven cobblestone street can cause them great potential peril and a lot of stress at the very least.

I hasten to caution that their traveling days aren’t over, they just need to find the experiences that will now work for them.

If you have older clients on your roster, you might find yourself wondering sometimes how they will get around when they embark on the adventures they book with you. Are you keeping an eye out for them? I don’t suggest telling them outright that they shouldn’t be going on vacation, but perhaps there are shore excursions that will work better for them than walking around a medieval village all afternoon. Can you push these options toward them rather than having them select something that’s inappropriate for their current level of health? Certainly, more than ever, the private car and driver is the ideal way for them to go. If you can find a good provider of these services, I suggest you create a chart for them showing the value proposition with a visual price comparison so that they’ll be able to see right away that their level of comfort comes at an appropriate cost.

It’s important to keep the potential risks for your older clients in mind. You want to keep them traveling, of course, but some people won’t slow down until something happens to them and no one wants that. And don’t forget to sell them travel insurance.

I recently hosted a river cruise roundtable for our sister publication, Travel Agent magazine, and Patrick Clark, managing director of Avalon Waterways said that a couple on one of his President’s Cruises told him river cruising had extended their travel life by another 10 years, since they never got off the vessels that brought them up close with the destinations they were visiting. If only solving all of life's challenges could bet that simple!

Speaking of globetrotting, I had a conversation with a friend recently where we determined that we were both traveling so much that it was difficult to remember where we’d even been last. Some of the destinations and experiences had been quite impressive, but for the life of us, we felt at a loss to describe some of them. But then she pointed out that thanks to digital cameras, most of us are not printing photos anymore to create travel albums that we can peruse on a rainy day and recall the great times we had.

She’s right. So here’s to taking the time to preserve our memories in a good old-fashioned format so we can savor our fortunate experiences in the unlikely event that we eventually do slow down and can only travel from our armchairs, turning the pages of cherished photo albums.

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