The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, April 19, 2002


Carlisle seniors travel abroad with the council on aging

On March 12 a group of excited travelers, including 15 residents of Carlisle, departed by bus from the parking lot next to Daisy's, and headed to Logan airport for their seven-hour flight to Milan, Italy. The Carlisle Council on Aging organized the trip, which was led by Carlisle resident Joanne Willens. The thirty adventurers, ages 30 to 90, stayed at the Hotel Don Pedro in Malcesine, on Lake Garda. For nine days they toured the beautiful Lakes Region, making visits to the Italian cities of Venice, Milan, Verona, Padua, the Italian Riviera, Nice, France and Innsbruck, Austria. They returned on March 22.

Special planning for seniors

A week before the trip I asked Willens what special plans a group of seniors would make when they travel. "They bring their prescriptions and extra medicine," she said, "but that's really about all. A few have health problems, but we will watch them," she added. Joanne told them to bring comfortable shoes, clothes that can be layered and a light jacket. The tour bus makes frequent stops, both for sightseeing and for bathroom breaks. The day trips include a box lunch with bottled water and fruit, and special arrangements could be made for diet restrictions. "Diet hasn't been a problem," said Joanne, pointing out that the hotel has five different restaurants to choose from. The most important aspect of traveling with seniors, Joanne felt, was letting them set the pace and resting when they needed to. "We give lots of rest time," she said, and she encourages tired travelers to stay behind for a day at the hotel. "As long as they tell me, so I know where everyone is," she added.

Handicap access to tourist spots

"Europe is not ready for handicapped traveling," said Joanne, when I asked her if there were any wheelchair users in the group. "The streets have pebbles and rocks, and there are steps everywhere you go, churches and museums." She said there would be a lot of walking as they toured, but there are plenty of places to rest. "Some members use a cane, and that's fine, they can go slowly," Joanne said, mentioning that the group is very supportive of each other. Part of the group, including Joanne, traveled together on last year's COA trip.

Security concerns

"After September 11, about ten people cancelled," Joanne answered, when I asked her if any of the group had security concerns about traveling. Durgan Travel Service, the travel agency arranging the trip and providing the tour guide, held a pre-trip meeting with the group in the Sleeper Room to discuss logistics and address any concerns about traveling. "No cans of hair spray should be brought" in carry-on bags, Joanne said, "or knitting needles, little scissors or knives." She said many people like to do craft projects while waiting in airports and on the airplanes, but they will not be able to bring handicrafts with them.

Physical and emotional concerns

"It might be good to know in major cities where there are American hospitals," Dr. Ross Peterson answered, when I asked him what seniors could do when they plan their trips. He suggested carrying medication supplies in two separate locations, in carry-on and baggage, and keeping a list of medications and doctors' phone numbers handy. I asked Dr. Peterson what emotional issues a senior may encounter. "Older people may be set in their ways," he said, and may find it hard to be flexible in new situations. Taking a trip with a group such as the COA may help stem off loneliness, which can occur when seniors travel alone. They can also experience anxiety in dealing with different currencies, personal safety, ordering meals, understanding directions and following new customs.

Reflections on the trip

"It was very good and the scenery was beautiful," Joanne said, after the group returned. "We didn't have any trouble with anything. We're ready for the next year's trip to Portugal and Southern Spain and most of the group wants to go next year." She said they might plan more leisure time into the schedule. "I had a hard time sleeping on the plane," Joanne said, and found the first day in Italy very tiring.

"She had a wonderful time," Louise Hara said, when I asked how her mother, Tomoko Hara, enjoyed the trip. Louise was thrilled with the number of new friends her mother had made and she hopes she will take the trip next year. The COA would like to encourage travelers of all ages to take advantage of the great group discount they receive. "People in their forties and fifties would love this trip,

2002 The Carlisle Mosquito