Travelling to foreign countries and regions is not restricted to those who are young. More and more older individuals are travelling in their retirement years. Every traveller needs plenty of time to prepare for a holiday or business trip and this is particularly important for the older traveller. Chronic conditions become more apparent as we age and need ongoing monitoring by your doctor. Here are some health and nutrition tips for the older traveller.
On the plane
- Long haul flights carry an increased risk of DVT (deep vein thrombosis) in the older population and those with blood clotting disorders. DVTs are blood clots that form in the deep veins of the legs. Ensure you have plenty of water (avoid tea, coffee and alcohol), do regular leg exercises, wear loose clothing and mobilise around the plane. Speak with your doctor about compression stockings if you a have pre-existing condition.
- Recovery from jetlag may take longer in older people. Add some extra stops into your itinerary and have some catch-up time at your destination. On the plane, eat small, light meals, higher in protein to reduce the effects of jetlag (protein foods include meat, chicken, fish, nuts, eggs, legumes and dairy foods including cheese, milk and yoghurt)
- Research your destination and identify any stressors that may impact upon your health. These include such things as jetlag, temperature extremes, altitude changes and how busy your schedule is. Prepare your trip with these stressors in mind.
- Eating a healthy diet with fresh fruits, vegetables and lean protein will help maintain a good immune system. Avoid drinking excessive alcohol as this may exacerbate any underlying conditions.
- If travelling to countries with poor sanitation ensure you drink bottled water and avoid uncooked meat, peeled fruit, salads and street vendors. Practice good hygiene by washing hands frequently.
- Research the health services in the area where you may be staying in case of emergencies.
- Dehydration can have serious side effects in the elderly. As you age your body’s ability to conserve water is diminished. You also don’t feel as thirsty. Older people don’t adapt as well to temperature changes. Maintain a good fluid intake and don’t rely on thirst to indicate you need more! Water is the best fluid to drink, so carry bottled water with you at all times.
Health and Medications
- Older travellers are more likely to take regular medications for a variety of medical conditions. Ensure you are well established on your medications, and are not starting any new medications close to your departure. Some medications need regular monitoring before the correct dose is established. Ensure you have more than enough medication for your trip.
- Ask your doctor for a printed ‘health summary’ outlining any active problems, past history, medication list and allergies. Carry this with you at all times.
- Get specific advice from your doctor on how to best reduce risks of complications while travelling, and take a tailor made medical kit based on your travel requirements.
- Review your vaccination requirements with your GP or travel doctor at least 6 weeks before departure. These will vary depending on the region you are travelling to.
- Certain vaccinations are free under the National Immunisation Program for those over the age of 65. They include influenza (flu) and pneumococcal disease. People in this age group are at higher risk of these conditions and their complications.
Careful pre-travel health preparation is essential for the older traveller. Seek age-appropriate advice from your travel agent and doctor. With plenty of planning, you can have a stress free, safe and memorable trip. Enjoy!
1. Keyes L et al: Older age, chronic medical conditions and polypharmacy in Himalayan trekkers in Nepal: an epidemiologic survey and case series. Journal of travel Medicine 2016
2. Fenner P et al: Fitness to travel: Assessment in the elderly and medically impaired. AFP 2007 pp 312-315