Montana is lucky enough to be a naturally socially-distanced state as well as being one of the states with the fewest cases of coronavirus. However, because of this reputation, we have noticed more out-of-state visitors this summer from people trying to escape more infected communities for Big Sky country. And for many, this is a chance to get an aging parent or someone who is in the senior stages of their lives a little vacation, a little reprieve from quarantine.
Our first thing to say here is if you are a senior or somone traveling with one of the most vulnerable populations, such as those 65 and older, please please wear a mask when inside a building or where people are present and please socially distance. While there is much unknown about this type of coronavirus, what we do know from the countries and cities who have been effective at fighting this is that they wear masks and socially distance. Okay. Enough of that. You know the rules. Here are some other things to think about.
Make Sure You Have a Medical Alert System that Works in Montana
Montana has a lot of remote areas. And while a higher percentage of seniors have cell phones and smart phones than ever before, you’ll still want to make sure than any seniors you are traveling with to Montana have a medical alert system that works in Montana. Check with the provider of your medical alert device and ask them if their product still works in whatever areas of Montana you plan on traveling to.
Bring a Pulse Oximeter
Montana’s average elevation is 3400 feet and no part of the state is lower than 1600ft above sea level. This state can be hard on the heart and can make many old people struggle to breathe.
Here is a piece by Yale Medicine on the importance of having a pulse oximeter. Here are a few options and price points to buy one from Walgreens, but you can buy these from tons of different vendors. Pulse Oximeters have become the go-to beacons in the healthcare industry for spotting respiratory distress and capacity reduction often before you even notice it. It’s good to have one so that you can tell the different between not yet being acclimated to the altitude and having a more serious issue.
This is going to sound a little crazy, but we’ve heard it from enough people that we are going to mention it here. Often shoes for older people are heavy, have large soles and are clunky. This is in part to help provide a bigger base for balance and support. However, when a senior is at altitude and often hiking, it can require extra strength to pull feet up even just an extra couple inches in order to walk up stairs or up a hill. AND we have been told by many, that using lighter shoes is a helpful strategy to avoid little trips and falls.
In most of the areas where tourist tend to go in Montana are quite a bit closer to the sun than in low-lying areas on the coasts. It might not sound like a real thing, but the higher in elevation, the closer you are to the sun and the sun gets harsher and brighter. Having a proper pair of sunglasses, whether prescription or not, is crucial to surviving the glare in the high country.
Here is a link to a comprehensive resource on Elderly Sunglasses that might not have the right style you are looking for, but this page will help you see what is out there and what it costs.
Bring Extra Sanitizer and Masks
Goes without saying, but we just didn’t want to leave this off the list. Especially if you are traveling by car and have extra space, be sure to bring more than you need so that you never feel the need to ration and can always stay safe from a surplus of supply.
Remember to Have Fun
These are some very tough times we are in, and many in the senior age bracket are frustrated, tired of not being able to life their retirement life as they have planned. We all are. The more fun you can have (safely) the more relaxed everyone will be. Certainly, you have to balance fun and safety during this time, but don’t sacrifice ALL the fun. Figure out how to make it happen for them. They have been working their whole lives and waiting for this opporunity to travel, explore, and relax. Montana is one of the few states where you can easily distance from people, and where there just aren’t that many people per capita, so you can find a spot to enjoy. Concentrate on the good times and don’t fixate on the restrictions.