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Recalling Stresses of Travel for Seniors

October 06, 2002

Susan Spano's column, "Careful Planning and Little Comforts Can Help Smooth the Way for Seniors" (Her World, Sept. 15), brought back memories of air travel with my mother. I travel frequently, and whenever I was somewhere I thought my mother would enjoy, she would fly out from Los Angeles to join me. I usually timed it so she only had to fly one way alone and we flew back together. But I worried the whole time she was on her own. Until you have traveled with an elderly person, you have no idea of how difficult it can be.

My mother wore hearing aids but had to take them out before she flew because the background noise on airplanes is so loud. Then she would worry that she couldn't hear, not just safety instructions but anything the flight attendant said to her. She had to have bulkhead seats because she had bad knees and needed to stretch her legs out. Airlines won't assign those seats in advance, so she worried until the time she checked in.

As she got older, even a trip to the airplane lavatory was stressful. If she was flying alone, she worried about being able to locate it. The closest ones were usually in first or business class, and frequently, but not always, flight attendants would allow her to use those.

I learned fast that arranging a car service was the best way to get her from the airport to the hotel when she arrived in a strange city.

I see fewer elderly people flying since Sept. 11. If it was stressful before, it is much more so now. My mother would get rattled if she set off the metal detector. How would she react now to taking off her shoes or having her bags searched by hand?



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