The proportion of people over 60-65 years of age is increasing more rapidly than any other age group in the population of almost every country in the world due to the increase in life expectancy and the decrease in the fertility rate. By prolonging our life expectancy, older adults have the opportunity to perform many activities at that time of life among which travel highlights. The definition of “senior” or “major” is not standardized, although 65 is the commonly used indicator. Age, however, is relatively less important than the physiological state and does not necessarily correlate with the presence or absence of disease.
Physiological changes occur to older adults during a trip:
A series of physiological changes in older adults, even when healthy, predispose them to greater risk during a trip and even more if they suffer from a chronic condition or are under pharmacological treatment. Some of the changes that can negatively impact a trip in the elderly are the decrease in cardiopulmonary function that occurs with longevity and, in turn, a poorer ventilatory response to hypoxia, compared to the young. Kidney function undergoes modifications and there is a decrease in the conservation of water and sodium. The regulation of body temperature is less effective and older adults have a decreased sweating ability that creates difficulties for acclimatization, more time to adjust to changes in temperature and humidity as well as height and changes in time zones, among others.
Over the years there is a likelihood of developing achlorhydria with an increased risk of gastrointestinal infections. There is also a decrease in the cellular immune response, which may mean a decrease in the ability to neutralize foreign antigens and an increased risk of contracting diseases during travel. There are metabolic changes that can occur in elderly people that can generate a decrease in glucose tolerance and a worse response to physiological stress and related to travel. The skin is also modified with loss of elasticity and collagen, which makes it more sensitive to weather conditions, damage by sun exposure and the development of potentially malignant actinic lesions.
Fat replaces muscle tissue and muscle strength are lost which can generate greater fatigue in the face of excessive physical efforts such as handling luggage, walking long corridors and stairs in train stations or airports. In turn, there is a loss of agility that increases the possibility of falls and injuries. In addition to the above, the deterioration of visual and auditory acuity can aggravate the problems inherent in international communication and adaptation to certain environments during travel.