Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Fly-Along Companions Offer a Way for Older People to Travel

Janet Robertson, a documentary filmmaker in New York, helps look after her uncle, Vincent Fahey. He is nearly 87 and loves to travel.

But she can’t always accompany Uncle Vin, who needs some day-to-day assistance. So when he wanted to visit London this past spring, Ms. Robertson did what others have started doing: She hired a skilled traveling companion for her older loved one.

For the London trip, Ms. Robertson found Doug Iannelli, owner of Flying Companions in Atlanta, to accompany her uncle.

Mr. Iannelli managed the travel reservations and logistics, slept in an adjoining hotel room and otherwise accompanied Mr. Fahey full time as they took in the museums, restaurants and tourist sites. When needed, Mr. Iannelli provided a wheelchair and made sure they took frequent rest breaks.

In all, the seven-day trip cost about $10,000. And Ms. Robertson stayed in touch with the pair via text messages and photos.

“I felt more comfortable because I could follow along,” Ms. Robertson said.

The business of providing traveling companions for older adults is still new enough that there are no good statistics on who or how many provide such services. But they are cropping up — not only in the United States but in Europe and Asia — to cater to aging populations who have leisure time and money but diminished capacity for the rigors of travel.

Whether it is older people on vacation or grandparents wanting to join their far-flung families for weddings and graduations, there is a growing number of seniors willing to travel but needing help moving through airport security lines, managing luggage and navigating busy terminals and bustling hotel lobbies.

Travelers 65 and older now make up nearly 20 percent of domestic leisure passengers in the United States, according to the research firm TNS TravelsAmerica. That percentage is almost certain to grow; the federal government has forecast that the number of adults 85 and older in this country, which was six million in 2013, will reach 14.6 million in 2040. (...)

Mr. Iannelli began his business nine years ago after helping a friend with disabilities fly to Minnesota.

“I realized there must also be people with nonmedical challenges that need help traveling,” he said. Since then, Mr. Iannelli said, he has flown worldwide with hundreds of clients.

The services aren’t cheap. Clients pay for the travel companion’s tickets, the companion’s hotel room if necessary, meals, incidentals and fees for the service. Mr. Iannelli said the price to accompany a client on a plane trip within the United States — including his fees and travel costs for all parties — might range from $2,800 to $4,500 for coach airfare. Business or first class, of course, would cost more.

Some companion services provide personal care like medication reminders, dressing, bathing and feeding. And for those with specific medical needs, traveling nurse services are available.

by Julie Weed, NY Times |  Read more:
Image: Dustin Chambers