Travel: Permission to adventure
Travelling with the elderly can bring with it certain challenges. But none of those should be a deterrent to take that trip with your mum, dad or older relative anyway
Travelling with an elder parent isn’t easy. Their agility must always be kept in mind, especially if you plan activities like picnics (where you are expected to sit on the ground), short cruises (where you must climb wobbly gangplanks), sightseeing (where you may have to climb steps) or nature walks (where there may not be benches to rest on). As an only child, I like to plan my vacations with my mother in mind, so I always think of alternatives where she can have an equally enjoyable vacation. We usually try and choose our hotels wisely, as those are the places where she will spend the most time, but we also plan fun outings that, in some places, can be easy on elders. Here’s a list of 10 fun experiences that my mom absolutely enjoyed!
The dip and dine
The flight to Malé being short and the resort being extremely flexible for older guests (they had a doctor’s room in case of emergencies) made me zero in on Hideaway Beach Resort. We opted for a domestic flight over a sea plane as that is easier for elderly people to board. I also pre-booked the lounge so she could rest while waiting for the flight. Mom is a non-swimmer, so she was very nervous about travelling with me to the Maldives. It was only once she realised on arrival that we were to stay in a two-bedroom beach villa that came with a butler and a buggy at her beck and call that she calmed down.
Since she couldn’t go to a sand bank for a picnic, we created one on the beach in front of our villa and also planned a dip and dine experience for her in the pool since you can’t go to the Maldives and not be by the waters! Mom loved her samosas and chai as the sun set, enjoying the refreshing ocean breeze and the cool water in which she dipped her feet.
Meeting sea lions
Atlantis, The Palm Dubai is extremely wheelchair-accessible. To start with, one can pre-book a wheelchair right from the airport pick-up; they have wheelchair-enabled vehicles too. Mom stepped into in the charming world of sea lions and got an up-close experience with them. Our visit was an amazing chance to learn more about these lively ocean creatures via their trainers, including the facilities they live in and their distinguishing habits on land and in the water.
Mom first listened to the briefing like an obedient student. After that, she stepped into one of the observing rooms to meet Roger, the creature who would become her dearest flipper friend. Remaining on dry land, she was greeted by Roger who waved his flippers at her happily, rumbling with such pleasure that it vibrated through the lagoon. I have no words to express the happiness on her face.
History and prayers
Short drives with a pit stop for tea and the loo always works best with elders. Gwalior is about a five-hour drive from Delhi and going to the 17th century Deo Bagh via the Taj Expressway is far from unmanageable. The Char Bagh monument once hosted a camp of Mughals; the 36-pillar rotunda at its centre secured women in its hidden chamber throughout that summer, thanks to the troughs of water on all its four sides. Today, the restored property feels more like an opulent oasis than a hotel. While the impressive architectural masterwork of the original is intact, a lot of contemporary luxuries are provided. There is also a temple on-site. Mom enjoyed basking in the sun, walking around slowly to take in all the history (she has a master’s degree in the subject) and visiting the temple.
A sunken dinner
I had never heard of Azaya Beach Resort until a close friend told me how much her parents loved the property in Goa, owing to it being a resort on Benaulim with direct beach access and the availability of a wheelchair. One evening, we booked a sunken sand dining experience, which encompassed coconut water, live singers and views of the sun setting over the Arabian Sea. Mom was transported to another world altogether.
Warmth & nostalgia
We chose to go to Ludhiana for two reasons. One: Mom’s brother lives there. Two: She had studied at the Government College in Ludhiana while my father had been at the Punjab Agricultural University. We opted for a room close to the lift so she didn’t have to walk much. Being a business hotel, Hyatt Regency had everything within easy walking access. This was a purely nostalgic trip and it went even better when the staff of the Hyatt Regency went out of their way to make Mom comfortable. The chef always made her tea just the way she liked it; a staff member always held her hand as she walked towards the lift. One evening, they organised a special dinner at the private dining room and surprised her by inviting her niece and grandson as well. They say people make a place; it really holds true for this beautiful hotel in the heart of Ludhiana.
A relaxing tête-à- tête
Those who have been to the Neemrana Fort Palace would know that it entails a lot of walking up to your room, but what many may not know is that there are two rooms you can reach with a lift.
In case those rooms are unavailable, the hotel also offers a ‘palki service,’ in case you have trouble walking. The internal gardens, both in the mardana and the zenana residences, are inspirational. The style of the place is matchless and as true-to-life as it can be. This ‘non-hotel’ hotel ranges over acres, offering sprawling rooms with natural aeration and overwhelming views. We went in winter time, so Mom and I spent our evenings sipping tea and watching the sun set. I really valued the time I spent here with her.
Bangkok knows how to keep tourists happy, whatever their age; there are wheelchair facilities almost everywhere. Mom enjoyed her visit to the Sleeping Buddha Temple, but was soon too tired to carry on. So, she sat down on a nearby bench while the rest of the family carried on. When we returned to her, we found that she had made friends with a British tourist and was sharing anecdotes of the time she had spent with her sister in Newcastle. Truly, meeting new people and making friends is the best thing about travel.
Living like a queen
At the Tijara Fort Palace, Alwar, Mom enjoyed the cup of tea that the butler woke her with every morning. This once unfinished and abandoned palace has now been lovingly restored and made into a dream.
The many outdoor venues gave Mom the opportunity to walk around slowly or just sit in the courtyard, whispering sweet nothings to her granddaughter and making memories.
Some airports, like in Kolkata, may not have the facility for wheelchair access once you exit; it’s always best to arrange one from your hotel. In my case, Hyatt Regency Kolkata organised an airport representative to help us through for a small extra fee. We used to live in Kolkata, so this was one city where mom wanted to do some sightseeing as well. I remembered how she used to love tonga rides—it wasn’t easy for her to hop on to the tonga, so we pulled out our small foldable stool (we usually carry that when she’s travelling). As the horse rode around, I could see the childlike happiness on her face.
Turn on the charm
This grand dame of Galle Fort, the Amangalla in Sri Lanka, attracts refined comfort-seekers with its wistful fittings, old-world charm and contemporary add-ons. Plus, its location on Church Street means no walking required. We booked mom’s room on the ground floor and took a tuk-tuk whenever required to go around the fort, either for sight-seeing, eating out or shopping. She absolutely enjoyed the Sri Lankan vegetarian meal and spa experience. According to her, this was her favourite destination after the Maldives.
Rupali Dean is a food & travel writer and an events specialist
From HT Brunch, June 11, 2022
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