Opinion: Keep in mind the needs of older travellers

Opinion: Keep in mind the needs of older travellers

Customers with memory loss may require more support, says Debbie Marshall, managing director of Silver Travel Advisor

At the 2016 Travel Weekly Globes the star turn was Dame Edna Everage, who ruled the stage from a velvet throne and whose diamanté pink frock and violet bouffant were a sight to behold.

Dame Edna had a captive travel industry audience to which to divulge her virtual holiday idea for oldies. With a mischievous smile, she jested that old people can’t remember a thing, so all they need is a bunch of beach photos, a bit of sand rubbed between their toes, a pair of sunglasses, fake tan on their arms, and they’ll think they have had two weeks in the sun.

Dame Edna, now 83, thrives on being outrageous and pushing the boundaries. However, memory loss is not always a laughing matter, and I’m sure I was not the only person to reflect a little more deeply on this growing problem and its implications.

Keep travelling

The percentage of over-65s in the UK is projected to rise from 16% in 2008 to 23% by 2033. With the ageing process comes the ageing mind and the impact of memory loss – beginning with forgetfulness in one’s 50s and 60s – and I’m sure a few industry veterans can relate to that. It can mean the early onset of dementia.

In the UK, more than 850,000 people are affected, of whom 40,000 are under 65. It is expected there will be one million by 2025 and two million by 2050, which is a sobering thought.

When it comes to holidays for more‑mature travellers, the growing trend is towards adventure, with companies focusing on action and activity. Saga has a vibrant new logo and message – Keep Doing – and its product lines include ‘Go for it’ volcano walking, deep‑sea diving and bush camps. The subtext is clear: age is no barrier, keep travelling and keep building those memories to last a lifetime.

Indeed, many over-50s are recognising the benefits of being more physically active as they approach later life and how more activity may mitigate the onset of dementia.

Support older customers

Companies such as Saga know how to manage the challenges of ageing, including memory loss, within the holiday experience. They provide clear instructions, carefully-paced itineraries and high levels of support. There’s a need for security, certainty and service when looking after older guests.

One of our Silver Travel Club members, who has a tendency towards forgetfulness, wrote recently: “I was really impressed by Saga and especially the reps. They worked extremely hard to make sure everyone enjoyed themselves and took good care of us, particularly on excursions. There was always a ‘sweeper up’ making sure no one got left behind or lost, but this was done so sensitively. I realised there was always someone looking out for me.”

Living with dementia should not mean the end of travelling and holidays, and certainly not ‘virtual vacations’ like those proposed by Dame Edna. Travel companies looking to reach the mature market should take the lead in becoming better educated in this area and embrace this growing challenge.

Now, where did I put my glasses?

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