Many seniors, including our elderly parents, are interested in travel to experience the sights and sounds of different cultures and environments that we all share. For some older adults, travel is a part of the “bucket list” mentality. For widowed individuals, it can provide stimulation and adventure.

The internet makes it relatively easy to learn about your intended travel destination, and any requirements on vaccines and/or recent health warnings. Or the local library will most certainly enable the required research. With some time and initiative, substantial information is available on destination, culture, climate, environment, health risks, safety, and security.

It is important to understand the laws and culture of the places you will be visiting. Respect your host country and its people by following local laws and customs. Try not to take risks with your health and safety.

Tips to consider:

  • Be careful about local food and water. In addition to avoiding sink or tap water (or even brushing your teeth with the water) in developing countries, stay away from eating any food sold by street venders or found on communal tables.
  • Only eat fruits with a peel that you can peel yourself; avoid dairy products that are made from unpasteurized milk; stay away from raw food and undercooked meats; and only eat vegetables that are piping hot.
  • Many travelers use plastic bottled water. But remember, disposal of plastic may be difficult in many countries where recycling is minimal.
  • Even travelers on cruises can be prey to such illnesses as noroviruses which cause diarrhea. As a result, it is suggested that travelers take alcohol sanitizers with them and wash hands frequently.
  • When traveling to warmer countries stay away from swimming in fresh water lakes and streams that may contain parasites. Dips in the ocean, or other salt water areas is safe. As are chlorinated pools.
  • Protect yourself. Wear a seatbelt when driving. Wear protective gear when doing adventure activities. Limit alcohol intake, and do not drink alcohol and drive.
  • Travelers are encouraged to pack a kit that includes basic medications for pain and headache relief and diarrhea. Use sunscreen and insect repellent as directed. Use bug spray that includes DEET to repel mosquito-born illnesses, and antibiotics for such common problems as gastroenteritis, ear infections, sinusitis, and urinary infections.

The cost for getting vaccinated is not inexpensive. Unfortunately, it is not likely covered by insurance. Still, if adventuresome seniors are spending $10,000 to travel, choosing not to spend a few hundred dollars to keep healthy seems penny wise and dollar foolish. Much better than becoming ill in a foreign country with questionable medical care, which can be risky and far more expensive.