“Walk a mile in my moccasins.” — Mary T. Lathrap
The other day, I got a letter from a reader — my very first letter ever. I bounced about in happiness. Well, I sort of moved my body about in a manner that substitutes for bouncing in my current, less-than-marathon-worthy physical condition, and then I read the letter repeatedly. It describes an older woman’s vacation experience and highlights the hospitality industry’s lack of “senior-friendliness.” I must admit, I had never thought about this before, but once alerted, I found the topic highly interesting. And as it so happens, I am writing this article from a hotel room in Seattle, Wash., after involuntarily criss-crossing the United States.
Due to a variety of circumstances, my trip from Albany to Seattle was less than linear. I flew from Albany to Chicago, where I missed my connecting flight because I did not “move fast enough” (after sitting on the tarmac for 45 minutes, I had seven minutes to make my connection) and I had to spend the night in the “Windy City.” The next morning, I was sent to Denver and then on to Boise. After a much-too-short, two-day visit with my extremely intelligent, absolutely gorgeous, 6-month-old granddaughter, I was shuttled off to Oakland and on to Seattle. Looking at a map, this travel pattern seemed a bit cumbersome and rather annoying.
Now, the airlines really did not treat me particularly poorly because I was a mature traveler. It would appear they treat everyone equally poorly. However, I do find it interesting that we have “pet friendly,” “family friendly,” “single-friendly” and “gay friendly” travel. I learned that there are countless organizations that have established guidelines to ensure that people traveling with children, people traveling with pets and traveling singles, gays and lesbians feel engaged, welcomed and happy. Other than discounts and tips for seniors, I did not find any organization that focuses on “senior friendly” travel.
So being inspired by the letter, I thought about my own travel experiences. I must admit, I am not as spry as I used to be; my eyesight may not be as acute and, as of late, I find it harder to hear clearly if there is a lot of background noise. Since my knee surgery, it’s a bit tougher to walk long distances or climb stairs, and unfortunately, I am not as quick as I used to be. So, how would I prefer the hospitality industry to help make my travel experience more pleasant?
Probably one of my personal pet peeves, don’t call me honey or sweetie. I have to restrain myself each time I am addressed that way. I am also not all too fond of a complete stranger (such as the airlines ticket agent) calling me by my first name. If they are looking at my name, Ms. Boeckmann would be fine, or else “miss” or “ma’am” would probably work for me.
Airline staff should provide feedback to the pilot when their message comes across the loudspeaker jumbled and inaudible. I am not willing to believe the garbled sounds I heard on the airplanes last week were audible to anyone.
I also find being repeatedly referred to a kiosk for the simplest of tasks frustrating. I prefer to speak to a person. A number of times on this trip, I waited in line to speak to a person, who then pointed me to a kiosk.
I am out of space today and will continue this in a future article. I would love to hear from you about what is helpful to you as you travel and tips that you would give the hospitality industry to become more “senior friendly.” Please send me an email at [email protected] or write to me at Senior Services of Albany, 32 Essex St., Albany 12206.
Be well and be happy.