April 27, 2011

USA: Travels Down Under With Alice, Age 88

NEW YORK / Forbes / Personal Finance / April 27, 2011

Aging Parents
By Carolyn Rosenblatt

Alice is my 88 year old mother in law. She’s been all over the world, but she’s slowing down these days. She still wants to share some of her best experiences with her kids. She’s determined not to let aging get her down.

She recently arranged a cruise along Australia’s coast for herself and us. Alice had her doubts. The knees aren’t doing so well. She is limited in her walking. The needed stamina was not a sure thing either. But she packed her bags, got one of those two boyfriends she has to take her to the airport and off we went.

Alice did pretty well. I was amazed that she could tolerate sitting on a plane for that long, that she was game for trying to do this. She has one of those lightweight portable wheelchairs to use for these occasions and it really helped. When there was a long walk or a long wait, she got a ride.

We learned that there are no restrooms on that lovely bridge across Sydney harbor. My husband got to try jogging while pushing the wheelchair to get her across the last stretch really, really fast to make it to “the conveniences” in time!

For anyone who travels with an aging parent, note: you get to the front of the line for anything if you have a wheelchair. As they say in Australia “you can jump the queue”.

Alice went wine tasting, sightseeing on a ferry, took some bus and train rides along the coast and into the mountains and generally, held up pretty well indeed. She wasn’t up for snorkeling on the Great Barrier Reef, but she’d done it before. We, of course, were entranced. I have to say that a spontaneous swim with a sea turtle was an other-worldly experience for me!

She did reach her point of exhaustion a lot and when she did, she stayed put while the younger set went out to do something. It all worked out. I am a grateful person. The aging parent in our lives is pretty darn functional. She knows her limits and we respect them. A trip like that is something to remember forever.

Perhaps a trip with an aging parent or other loved one is possible for you. There is every imaginable way to accommodate for their age, even in other countries. Yes, it takes patience, but it’s worth the effort.

No matter what a parent’s impairments may be, there just might be a way to work out having a good time on a trip, short or long. Even if our minds are affected by dementia, our emotions are alive in us. We can smell good smells, listen to music, taste new foods, feel the sunshine, and see beauty. A gorgeous sunset is still great, even if an aging person can’t name it.

Travel is a shared enjoyment, despite the inconveniences. For cruising, they’re set up for disabled persons, and they work to make it easier for you. We are holding on to the memories, savoring the moment, and feeling happy that Alice can share something with us that has a lot of meaning for her.

We wish you the same moments, wherever you find them. A little fun, some laughs, an adventure, some entertainment for their sake and yours. Grab it with your aging parent while you have a chance.

Until next time,
Carolyn Rosenblatt,

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