Saturday, April 19, 2014


One of the best things about retirement is having the time and money to travel. In the old days (was it that long ago?) it took us years to save enough for the airfare and hotel accommodation, and that only to nearby places. Travelling to distant and exotic places was a pipe dream for many of us.

Retirees now form the largest group of travellers and tourists, thanks to budget airlines and seniors discounts. The world is literally at our feet. There was a time when Malaysian passport holders were not allowed to visit several countries, including China. Now only one remains out of bounds to us - Israel.

My first trip abroad was to India and Nepal in 1975. I backpacked on my own for almost a month, roughing it out in cheap hotels in Bombay, Delhi and Kathmandu, and surviving on snacks and sandwiches to stretch my limited resources.

I was in my late 20s then. At that age, you can travel light, and put up with any amount of discomfort, like cold showers in winter and bare beds to sleep on. But when you are in your 60s or 70s, packing for a holiday abroad can involve a lot of planning, especially if you have some health issues to deal with.

Nothing like some sound advice from doctors on what to bring along when you travel if you have health problems such as high blood pressure and diabetes. The travel tips below are extracted from the Straits Times article "Flying Tips for the Elderly" published on April 10, 2014. (Sources: Dr Lim Si Ching, a consultant at Changi General Hospital's department of geriatric medicine, and Dr Raymond Choy, a general practitioner at the Raffles Medical Changi Airport.)


Senior travellers should always take along their routine medication such as those for high blood pressure and diabetes; and inhalers for asthmatic patients. Have a list that spells out health conditions, medication and drug allergies, in case of emergencies.

It is also good to travel with paracetamol for pain or fever; pills for diarrhoea, motion sickness and the common cold; and wound care kits.

Get international medical coverage in case treatment is needed abroad.
You can get good seniors discount at the bi-annual MATTA FAIR. Watch out for the next one later this year.

Before flying
1. Request for an aisle seat near the toilet for convenience.
2. If possible, travel in a group or with a younger person.
3. Get a pre-travel check-up and go for the appropriate vaccinations.
4. Buy low-dose medication for anxiety and motion sickness, if needed.
5. Get adequate travel insurance coverage.
6. Pack your medication and your usual aids in your hand luggage.

On the plane

1. If you use hearing aids, lower the volume during take-off and landing to avoid ear damage from aircraft noise.
2. Avoid carbonated drinks and gas-producing foods such as onion, cauliflower, cabbage and baked beans.
3. Avoid or limit your intake of alcohol and caffeine during long flights.
4. Move around often. A trip to the bathroom every two to three hours will keep the circulation going.
5. Contract the leg muscles periodically, for instance by flexing your feet, to alleviate discomfort,fatigue and stiffness.

1. Elderly travellers can pack a small face moisturiser or cream into their hand luggage to mitigate the cold and dry air on board.
2. Diabetic passengers can also pack a sugary drink or chocolate bar in case of low blood sugar.
3. Elderly travellers should avoid alcohol before departure as it dehydrates and interferes with sleep.
4. Wear special compression stockings to prevent clots forming in the legs, especially for those at risk.
5. Drink plenty of water and move around often on board.

1. People with cardiovascular diseases such as uncontrolled high blood pressure, or those who have suffered a heart attack or undergone heart surgery recently, should not travel without the doctor's clearance.
2. Those who have had a heart attack, for instance, should not travel until at least three months later, as the risk of developing another heart attack is higher due to low oxygen levels.
3. Elderly people with lung problems, such as uncontrolled asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, are also advised to seek medical advice before flying.
4. Those with acute ear or sinus infections should avoid flying in case of earache, hearing loss, vertigo and tinnitus.

Uncle Xavier in Tibet, 1990
My Uncle Xavier who turns 81 this year is an intrepid traveller. If you name a country, he has probably been there. A heart by-pass has not killed off the travel bug in him. He prefers destinations that are off the beaten track, like Machu Picchu and Pyongyang. A backpack is all he needs when he is on the road.

I certainly wouldn't encourage any octogenarian or anyone with a heart condition to follow in my uncle's travel footsteps. My uncle is made of tough material. The spirit of adventure in him is incredibly strong.

If your next trip is coming up soon, make sure you plan well and follow the good doctors' advice above. Happy Travelling!


Unknown said...

Hi, I knew Xavier! We went on a tour to Syria and Lebanon in 2006.....yes, we all (in our travel group) envy him for his relentless energy, strength and agility in climbing, trekking and tackling all the difficult & treacherous (to the rest of us, anyway!) treks in our trip - he made it seemed so effortless and "senang saja".....

Hi Xavier, hope this finds you in fine health! God bless!
Regards, Linda Leong (Yongo Travel)

seniorsaloud said...

Hi, Linda, I am delighted you know my uncle. I grew up wanting to travel like him. He has traveled to more countries than I can count!
I will convey your best wishes to him.