Op-Ed: Let’s Reframe Travel with Seniors

Op-Ed: Let’s Reframe Travel with Seniors

Cathy Bollinger, managing director of Embracing Aging, York County Community Foundation

York County Community Foundation’s Embracing Aging works to change the way people think about aging.  It’s through this lens that I speak out in response to a feature on the front page of the Living Section of the March 2nd York Daily Record edition titled, Exploring with Elders.

I was taken back by the negative stereotypes contained throughout the article.  Booking travel with people age 65 and older may require some additional planning, however using phrases like “especially difficult” and “unforeseen problems can spoil plans” seems a bit much.

The keys to successful vacations with seniors are no different than any other age group.  Vacations should consider the needs, interests, costs, and abilities of all travelers, no matter their age.

The tips listed for traveling with seniors conveyed ageism.

One tip stated it’s better for seniors to have one person organize the trip, implying that older people find it harder to receive information from multiple people.  This may be true for some seniors, however it’s also true for some people of all ages.  Let’s not assume people’s age impacts their comprehension ability.  And, having one person organizing a trip can be beneficial for all age travelers.

Other tips referenced not booking flights or excursions too early or late in the day, and when possible, fly direct.  I know people age 65 and older who have more energy than people ages 18 – 50 and doesn’t everyone benefit from direct flights?

There was a focus on older travelers being more susceptible to illness and needing medical help when traveling abroad.  I’d like to see the data on these statements.  Seniors aren’t the only age group on trips who have medical needs.  And, isn’t understanding health care services at your destination a smart practice for all age travelers?

The tips stated that older people prefer adult only vacations.  This is true for some adults of any age, not just seniors. I know some older people who enjoy and desire vacations that offer opportunities to engage with children and younger adults.

This article missed the mark.  It made assumptions based on age and reinforced an “us” vs. “them” mentality, which may even discourage people from wanting to travel with older people. It didn’t reference the fact that there are some people age 65 and older who are savvy travelers and are as capable, or even better, at being the vacation planner.


What if the approach to this article would have been from the lens of older travelers, having them share their tips and lessons learned from travel adventures?  Think about the different impact of such an article if it shared data about the number of people over age 65 who travel, the economic boom they provide at the destinations, and the many cool excursions they experience.

Please join me in speaking up when words and actions perpetuate negative thinking about aging.  When we do, we’ll build a better community for our lives, the lives of our children and grandchildren, as well as the lives of our parents and grandparents.  Let’s be leaders together in reframing how people talk about aging.

Contact Cathy Bollinger, managing director of Embracing Aging at cbollinger@yccf.org  or 717.848.3733 to share your thoughts on this, to join EA’s dialogue on reframing aging, or to learn more about how you can bring an Embracing Aging presentation to your business, organization, school, club, or event.


York County Community Foundation’s Embracing Aging is a long-term initiative that focuses on improving how people experience aging in York County by disrupting negative views on aging and working towards creating an age-friendly community.   York County Community Foundation creates a vibrant York County by engaging donors, providing community leadership, and investing in high-impact initiatives while building endowments for future generations.  To learn more about us, visit www.yccf.org