Make the Most of a Road Trip with Elders

By Christine Tibbetts

Blended Family Traveling Mom
Increasing the number of front seats would help mightily for road trips with elders who have trouble lowering themselves into back seats when their balance is shaky and their quadriceps not so toned.
Alas, that is not an option. So consider these tips and ideas for helping seniors keep their humor — and dignity — in tact during long family road trip excursions.
These ideas are the product of many a multigenerational road trip — everything from long journeys to visit other relatives to half-day drives to catch a plane or a cruise ship.

Pillows, blankets, foot rests
Parents know that keeping young ones comfortable helps make the road trip go more smoothly. The same goes for seniors. Bring along pillows to provide lower back lumbar relief and for nodding napping necks.
If you like to keep the car cool to help the driver stay alert, bring a blanket or cover to ensure comfort for elders who tend to chill easily. It can save many discussions about the air conditioning controls.
Besides, there’s a good chance those controls are inconveniently high in an SUV ceiling or too far front on the dashboard, so some members of the greatest generation members might be more likely to endure than complain.

Bathroom stops
The classic father-threatened wide-mouthed jar or “hold it” instruction simply won’t do traveling when with the elders. Gracious is the code word for these road trips.
That means pulling into rest stops whether the driver wants to or not. Just do. Don’t ask. The benefits of a little walking add up too — for everyone. Elders aren’t the only ones who get stiff after long periods of inactivity.

Bathroom mechanics
I’ve seen toilets on interstate highway rest stops low enough for kindergartners. Gently guide your grandmother to the stall with grab bars and a taller toilet.
Take nothing for granted; my 90-year-old mother got rattled in a public bathroom and could not open the door to her stall. Crawling under worked for me but what if I had waited outside enjoying the sunshine?
Automatic faucets confound many users; count on that with elder road trippers.
High-intensity hand dryers can cause immense pain for elders with tinnitus or hearing aids dialed high enough to hear the grandchildren in the back seat. Just air dry as you walk together.

Sustenance
A thermos with milk and a package of cheese crackers to share was my parents’ notion of responsible dining on road trips when they were 80.
That’s when they were driving, and stopping every 100 miles to switch drivers. Even on the interstate shoulder if that’s when mileage arrived.
Once they became passengers on family trips, restaurant stops only happened if the rest of us said eating was our need, not a favor for them.

Devices and gadgets
Unless your elders also amuse themselves with the latest small electronics, chances are they will feel neglected and insulted if everyone in the vehicle is so engaged. Build in conversation.

Steps and stools
Giving granny’s fanny a boost to get up into the SUV is not a good way to help her keep her dignity. Bring along a sturdy step stool.

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