Firsthand | Experiences with aging

By Ron Anderson
For many years my wife and I have enjoyed a trip to Florida or California in January and a timeshare week in Mexico in March. Because I am approaching 80 and travel has become more work, we agreed that this year would be our last to take winter vacations. We decided to splurge: A month in San Diego and two weeks in Mexico.   

We found a perfect condo rental in San Diego with a beach view. For months we dreamt of warm walks by the ocean. Upon arrival we found poor heaters, broken windows, stained carpets, and dirty floors. Our greatest shock came from discovering the ubiquitous staircases. We knew there were stairs to the bedroom, but we had no idea that entering the condo required going up a steep, 15-step staircase. My knees let out little yelps each time I took a step up. 

So much for winter vacations 

We had spent a lot of time senior-proofing our primary living space—no staircases, grab bars in the bathroom, etc.—but we neglected to think about these in vacation planning. We resolved the staircase challenge by cutting short the vacation by two weeks.

Our Mexico trip posed a totally new challenge: Travel during a pandemic. Over our two weeks (March 1–14) in Cabo, at the southern tip of Baja California, we nervously followed the daily news. We almost returned early because I had less than a month’s supply of meds and we worried that the U.S. might halt flights from Mexico. The tension made it hard to enjoy the sun. 

We had flown into MSP airport hundreds of times, but never before had our landing felt as wonderful and secure as it did this time. 

Two weeks later we read about a travel group of 70 who chartered a plane to Cabo San Lucas the week we left. Over half of them were later reported to have caught the coronavirus while in Cabo. During our stay, there were no reported cases; the next week there were 42. This is a true story! Boy, did we feel blessed. 

We may never travel for a winter vacation again, but if we do, we will plan for frailties, possible quarantines, and viral super-spreading.