Less Agile, More Fragile
Life — July 2003
|An experienced cruiser offers some hints on accommodating older passengers.|
Last fall my wife Nancy’s parents joined us on a three-week cruise from Algonac, Michigan, to Baltimore, Maryland, during which her father celebrated his 90th birthday in Atlantic City, the same city where he and Nancy’s mother (age a secret) spent their honeymoon many years before. During the voyage the four of us shared some really special moments: reminiscing, enjoying the scenery, and just plain being together. Nancy and I also learned about the ins and outs of cruising with older folks.
Our most important realization was that older folks are often less agile and more fragile than younger passengers. Diminished eyesight, hearing loss, and sometimes unsure balance are often the natural result of passing years. While kids often ricochet to their feet, uninjured from a seemingly horrendous fall, a shipboard fall can be pretty serious stuff to a golden-ager.
Consequently, boaters need to give greater-than-normal attention to tripping and falling hazards. Dock lines, power cords, water hoses, cleats, and loose items on deck are especially hazardous for people with diminished sight, balance, and agility. You may want to make regular tours around the boat to look for such hazards. And remember that docks can present challenges, too, and the hazards can be at eye-level (a protruding anchor pulpit) as well as foot level.
Underway, the normal motion of a boat can present special balancing difficulties for seniors—rough water even more so. That’s why elders always need a comfortable seat and should be urged to use it when the boat is underway. If they must move underway, simply having a helping hand available will put them at ease. And if conditions are rough, don’t hesitate to suggest the “sit and skootch” method.
Make sure your older, inexperienced passengers understand that life on a boat requires special equipment: hats, sunscreen, deck-gripping shoes, and clothing to protect against heat, cold, and moisture. Moreover, urge them to inform their friends and relatives that they’ll be away from home and perhaps out of contact. Offer them your cellphone number to distribute, as well as copies of your float plan, including contact information for the marinas you plan to visit.
Medical issues also require special attention. On an extended cruise, older passengers need an ample supply—more than just for the duration of the trip—of any medicine they require. Be certain their medicines and your seasickness remedies are compatible; any pharmacist can point out possible conflicts and suggest alternatives. And make sure your get the names and telephone numbers of their physicians.
This article originally appeared in the June 2003 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.