Do Hotel Rooms That Advertise as ‘Elder-friendly’ Really Measure Up?

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by Ray Burow |

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Older adults haven’t backed out of traveling this year. Some 67% of those older than 50 plan to get away in 2022, compared with 54% last year. Considering the COVID-19 pandemic, that was a significant number taking off to visit family, vacation, or simply day trip at least 50 miles away from home. According to AARP research, older people will take an average of at least four trips out of town this year.

This is great and makes sense. It’s challenging to strike adventures off a bucket list when working 9 to 5, so as retirement looms, travel planning begins. But how safe are hotel rooms for those who are older, especially those with walking or mobility issues?

Elder-friendly?

Some hotels claim to be “elder-friendly” and have rooms set aside for guests with disabilities, but the hotel’s definition may not meet the need. As age increases, disabilities also increase. According to the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University, in the United States, 15.3 million households ages 65 and older have “household activity limitations” and 9.6 million have mobility limitations.

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Climbing stairs, getting in and out of bed, walking from a car to the hotel lobby, and even standing to be addressed by the hotel’s reservation staff can be a challenge for those with mobility issues. The issue is further complicated if an older person is cognitively impaired.

These may not be significant problems if you’re traveling with a companion, but before booking a room, think about your needs or the needs of the traveling companion with mobility issues. Don’t assume a hotel room is “elder-friendly” just because it’s listed as such. Ask questions before reserving the room.

A family booked an “elder-friendly” hotel room for a grandmother in town for her granddaughter’s wedding. Unfortunately, Grandma missed the rehearsal dinner. Her room was friendly for older folks, but its fifth-floor location wasn’t, and the nonagenarian couldn’t navigate the stairs when the elevator broke down. Imagine the inconvenience the next day when the fire department arrived to deposit Grandma, fully dressed in wedding attire, in the lobby so that she could attend the wedding.

Definitions vary

Hotels aren’t always as good for those 65 and older as they propose to be, and this isn’t necessarily on purpose. Their definition of “elder-friendly” may be insufficient because they assumed meeting the local code enforcement’s definition was enough. For some people, it is, and in all fairness, hotels can’t meet every need of every person. However, there are a few standards that older travelers should keep in mind before booking a room.

  • Always book rooms on the first level.
  • Is there seating in the lobby?
  • Concierge service?
  • Does the bathroom have safety bars near the toilet and around the tub or shower?
  • Does the tub or shower floor have rubber skids?
  • Can a walker fit in the bathroom with enough room to turn around?
  • Are the floors to the room and inside the room carpeted? Catching a toe on the carpet can cause falls, and carpeting is also difficult to navigate with wheelchairs and walkers.
  • Is the lighting bright, and can the lights be turned on and off at the wall?
  • Can you get an adjoining room if traveling with a parent, grandparent, or other older individual?

Hotel stays are fun when you have the capacity to enjoy them, and most hotels seem to make an effort to please those 65 or older. It would be nice if rooms had user-friendly television remotes, or if those restaurants and point-of-interest guides had large print. Maybe one day. In the meantime, our due diligence when booking will help make the stay enjoyable.

Safe, happy travels!


Note: Alzheimer’s News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Alzheimer’s News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Alzheimer’s disease.

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