Nearly 1 in 3 older Americans plan an extended trip next year, and 1 in 4 plan to travel for the holidays, but many will take COVID-19 into account, a new survey shows.
If COVID cases surge at their destination, 20% said they would definitely change their plans, and another 52% said they might do so.
"These poll findings are consistent with previous AARP research which shows that optimism for travel this year is growing, but COVID-19 precautions still take precedence for many older adults," said Alison Bryant, senior vice president of research for AARP, which supported the poll.
It included more than 2,100 respondents, 50 to 80 years old, and was conducted in August by the National Poll on Healthy Aging. The poll is based at the University of Michigan Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation.
Only 17% of respondents said they had ventured 100 miles or more from home for two weeks or more in the past year, but 31% plan to do so in 2022.
Respondents who aren't vaccinated against COVID were much less likely to say they'd consider changing their travel plans due to pandemic-related factors, even though they have less protection against serious illness than most vaccinated older adults.
"Travel, especially after so many months of staying close to home, could give many older adults a needed break from their everyday surroundings and a chance to feel a sense of normalcy, or reconnect with friends and family separated by distance for so long," poll director Dr. Preeti Malani said in a university news release. She is an infectious disease physician at Michigan Medicine in Ann Arbor.
Malani noted that vaccinated older adults should be mindful of COVID activity at their destination, but most would face a far lower risk of infection than their unvaccinated counterparts.
Bryant suggested all travelers keep safety top of mind.
"As more Americans make travel plans, it's important to continue referring to public health officials' travel guidance," she said in the release. "Those who may be at higher risk of infection should talk to health care providers about how to stay safe if they travel."
Though 97% of those planning a long trip said they'd make sure to bring enough of their prescription medications with them, far fewer said they'd take other safety steps.
For example, about a third said they would see their primary care provider before leaving and even fewer said they would check with their health insurance to see what it would cover, if need be.
The poll suggested that 25% of trip planners might be banking on an option that might not be available -- having a telehealth visit with their regular provider.
State and federal rules, as well as policies at many health systems, may not allow these video appointments if patient and provider are in different states or countries. Only 19% of respondents planning a long trip said they would stay in their own state.
Of respondents who had made an extended trip in the past year, 10% said they had gotten medical care while traveling.
SOURCE: Michigan Medicine/University of Michigan, news release, Nov. 17, 2021
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