13 Tips to Avoid Injury & Save Money during Senior Summer Fun

13 Tips to Avoid Injury & Save Money during Senior Summer Fun

April seems to epitomize ‘spring.’ For many it’s a favorite season, rebirth and all that. Strangely, it reminds me of the dog chewy-biscuit commercial in which the dog frantically yells (in his head) “bac-on, bac-on, bac-on, bac-on” over and over. My internal shout is “summer – summer – summer – summer.” Don’t misunderstand, I adore spring.  Yet, it’s somewhat a prelude – a small taste of the real show to come.

Maybe it’s a remnant of childhood days and long hours of Red Rover, Dodge Ball or Stop Light. A time before ubiquitous ‘screens’ took over young minds and eyes. No matter what initiates the sense of delight, it seems most of us enjoy long summer hours, and the ability to be outdoors more often.

Whether these summer hours mean an actual ‘vacation’, a renewed activity or just spending more time closer to nature, it ushers in a rejuvenating change of pace. I wish I intended to focus on those renewal benefits stemming from a break in our routine – we all need that desperately. But with this post, I am going to suggest random tips for safety, carefree activity or saving a few pennies.

Whether you plan a month-long spectacular, a week-long jaunt or just a last-minute outing for the day, these 13 Tips will be useful to keep in mind. If you plan to fly, review the Aging With Pizzazz guest post “Best Tips on Air Travel for Seniors.”

13 Tips

1. No Cold Turkeys. Whatever the activity, I have learned it is always best not to go from couch potato to wishful Olympian overnight. [OK, I never wished quite that much.] Still, by now, we all realize that weekend-warrior behavior is dangerous, but the reminder is in order. Going ‘cold turkey’ usually references giving something up (like smoking). So don’t give up the couch in its entirety. Our example is more like a dumb-turkey – doing too much, moving too fast, and Bam! Roadkill. Even abruptly walking twice your usual distance can ruin time away with blisters or muscle strains. This is an all-the-time rule. ‘Dumb Turkey’ sounded rude compared to cold turkey, but the point is clear. Start slowly; progress gradually.

2. Facebook can Stay Home. Is this a rant against using phones and tablets on a get-away? No…….….. Although……………, well, consider that for yourself. But do avoid all FB posts of your plans, scheduled departures or trip pictures UNTIL you return. In the past, we all worried about stopping deliveries, so that mail, milk or newspapers piling up didn’t sound an alert and give away our absence. Now many folks are willingly announcing their up-coming time away to more people than they even know. If this habit saves even one break-in or bank scam, you have saved a bundle, in money, annoyance, sentimental loss and emotional pain.

3. New Shoes – No Go. Don’t put on your lovely new shoes before a vacation – or even a day trip to the local zoo. Break in any new shoes before you go. Make sure they remain comfortable and supportive beyond the shoe-store testing. In the past, I have thought “ok, a day or two.” But no longer. Give it at least a month in advance for a long trip or a week before day-long walking.

4. Right Shoe – wrong sock. You may have broken in the shoes (as above), but then change the type of sock you are wearing. It’s not the severe problem of an ill-fitting shoe, but when the shoes and socks don’t fit together well, it can lead to blisters and even black toenails – both capable of wrecking a fine time (or your fashion status).

5. Biking shouldn’t ruin dinner. If you plan a bike ride, aside from the helmet and other safety equipment, consider springing for a pair of heavily padded bike pants for more comfort. One of the best parts of travel is dining out – you don’t want to find yourself miserable while sitting through dinner. [I admit that my own recumbent bike, with its mesh swing-seat is a lovely exception. However, without a second thought, I rented a bike for a short excursion while on vacation a few years ago. Let’s just say I remember it still. ]

6. Cars and Planes have wheels – so should you. I admit this is not unique, but there is NO reason to lug a suitcase these days. Use a suitcase or duffle with wheels. If you are traveling lighter – or for your second “personal” piece of luggage when flying – use a backpack with 2 shoulder straps. AND employ those straps – don’t carry them both over one shoulder. Let’s not think of backpacks as only for kids and younger people.

7. “A.B.See me lift.” Now that you are using the correct suitcase, lift it correctly as well, meaning without a lot of twisting or fast action. [Don’t let other people rush you.]  Concentrate just a bit as you grab the handle. In your mind, repeat “A-B-C me lift correctly.” It’s a helpful reminder and causes us to momentarily slow down. The keys aren’t new. Maintain good posture, tighten the stomach muscles and when possible keep the bag close to you. Reach as little as possible. Bend appropriately, and move torso with the bag (so that you don’t twist awkwardly while holding it).

8. Brief Diet Change. We can’t help but eat differently when away from our homes, but best to minimize any related complications. For more than a couple days away, bring some of your own snacks. It may save money on hotel-style cafés, in-room concession thievery, or even let you skip a meal that might just lead to more bloat. Trail mix, granola bars, jerky (I like Trout or Salmon), nuts/seeds, dried fruit, and even ‘real’ fruit (fresh) if you are on a driving trip, can take the place of a meal. If you find yourself relying on fast foods, at least pick the healthier options. We can convince ourselves “oh well, I’m on vacation.” Still, you might feel better with the occasional lighter choices. These extra planning steps may also minimize continuous over-eating and let you enjoy the time in ‘special’ restaurants a bit more.

9. Water Controversy. You know the type of people that cringe at others using bottled water in disposable, supposedly recyclable, plastic containers? I’m probably one of the cringers. I prefer to take my own water bottle and fill it when needed. HOWEVER, we don’t want ‘travelers’ disease.’ If you are at all uncertain about the local water in a foreign county – or sad to say, some parts of the US – drink bottled water while traveling. Of course, the additional reminder is to brush your teeth with the bottled water as well.

10. Travel Stasis.
In your normal day. Move more to avoid injuries (minor or very serious). While useful every day, this is particularly essential during travel time when our routines are disrupted.

In the air. Lots of folks over 50 remember to wear their compression socks while flying. That’s excellent. How about car trips as well. It’s certainly not as vital, but can’t hurt. And now, while in your special socks – move!   While in the air – leave your seat once an hour. Despite annoyed neighbors, it’s worth it. Also, exercise in your assigned spot. Many airlines have wised-up and include exercise routines in their seat literature (some even show follow-along videos). If yours does not, consider these well-confined stretches:
*    Stretch feet, extend and point your toes. Bend toes. Repeat both.
*    Cross arms overhead and push elbows up one at a time.
*    Bend over in seat with hands under thighs, pull up and then stretch back.
*    Tighten and relax stomach and buttock muscles multiple times.
*    Put palms together like praying and push.

In the car, as a passenger you can do the same exercises, but as the driver you will need some alternatives. To ease steering-wheel grip, frequently stretch hands and fingers in the direction opposite from your gripping (so, open and back).  Follow by rotating wrists. Then do shoulder rolls, first going forward and then backward. For everyone traveling in the vehicle, it is helpful to pull off in a rest area and walk around the car, squat at the two doors and get back in. It’s kind of fun and “wastes” fewer minutes than you might think.
Best tip: if you step thorough each of these movements now, you are more likely to remember them later, when you need them to avoid travel stasis.

11. Adventure Spas. If you are contemplating time at a Spa (or ‘Dude Ranch’) that specializes in cardiovascular training (or activities like golf, tennis, hiking, horseback-riding, cycling, rock-climbing, kayaking, etc.), choose one with reality in mind. If you are a beginner, research spas designed with beginners taken into account – those which make newbie allowances. Don’t pay extra for activities or activity levels currently out of your league. Save the money and relax a bit more. Often these places have lovely grounds that few guests end up having time to enjoy due to all the scheduled activities. With novice status respected, you may also be saving a post-event doctor bill.

12. Pillow preference. Like me, I know that many people miss their own pillow when away. Sometimes (especially in car travel) it is worth the space to pack it, but other times not. There are vast arrays of travel pillows, bean bags, memory foam, blow-up and a vast array of price tags as well. Depending on your needs, paying for a good travel pillow can be a wise investment. I have had several Eagle Creek ones that I quite like, and have seen equally interesting varieties in travel and outdoor stores. However, some seem too bulky and heavy for me to deal with during times when very ounce counts. Most of us have our pillow preferences decided at this point, but how about this additional suggestion. You may have seen new air-travel pillows, which you lean forward on after placing it on your tray-table.  You can rest over it to relax your back and change your position. Nice idea. They are costly for their limited use. My husband planned a pauper’s version. He bought a 97-cent blow-up beach ball. After placing a sweater or airline blanket over the ball, it’s comfy and fairly durable. Even if it breaks, who cares? It’s worth the 97 cents for a bit of rest. Again, weighing very little. This also works in the car if your seats don’t recline as you wish, or just for a change in position.
Tip: wait until reaching cruising altitude to inflate so that it doesn’t over-pressurize.

13. Personalized 1st Aid Kit. You can’t prepare for everything and most places will have the common supplies like bandages, disinfecting ointments or band-aids. However, consider some specialties to save you time (hunting them down), money (paying premium prices) or pain. The obvious are your own prescriptions. But how about some other traveling aids: high altitude medications (available in the states for about $1.50/tablet); motion sick remedies like non-drowsy Dramamine; melatonin if you find it helpful for jet lag; anti-histamine drugs for allergies, or simple aspirin. Probiotics may be vital to maintain regularity, even if you are facing challenging changes in diet or water quality. For those prone to lifting luggage poorly or ignoring the travel stasis tips (shame), a back brace may be worth the packing weight to ease the trip. Same for those who personally rely on other braces, like knee or elbow supports. Two specialties in our kit are a lightweight, OTC home kit to temporality replace a dental crown, and 2nd Skin liquid to cover any blisters, minor wounds or even a bad hang-nail. The former dental remedy, which weighs next to nothing, can be a real time-saver in case of this rare problem that could create a terrible situation. With the kit, you can find temporary relief, visit your own trusted dentist on return, and salvage your trip.

Final Thought

While many of these tips are for actual traveling, even day trips require a small bit of planning, preparation and supplies. All these scenarios, long trips, short trips or day trips share some basic ideas.

Take it slow. Keep it light. Make it safe.

Enjoy your plans.

Picture Credits:
Title – Pond & Bridge by Emkanicepic via Pixabay
Sock, shoe, pant by Aitoff via Pixabay
Beach ball by Openclipart 27443



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