Just a couple weeks ago I had the privilege of travelling again with Ray, my 91yr old friend. Last time we went on a New York City adventure.
This time we were on an East Coast Adventure in Halifax.
He’s actually the grandfather of my best friend who lives in Halifax. When she moved there 8 years ago she asked me if I could check up on him from time to time and maybe meet him for a coffee when I had time. Of course, I agreed who wouldn’t want to spend time with Ray? I love him so much, he’s a lovely man who is full of life and fantastic advice. One of my favourite things he always says is “I only know nice people” —I think that is so great and insightful. Really, why waste time on people who aren’t nice? Especially when you’re 91!
Our trip to Halifax was mainly for Ray to see his family including his 11-year-old great-granddaughter. It also allowed me to spend some time with my best friend. She lives so far from Toronto that we just don’t get the girly time we’d like to have together. So, this trip was a win-win for everyone.
I met with Ray for coffee 5 days before leaving. He was so excited! He was already packed and ready to go. This got me even more excited and I went home and thought about packing myself but waited a few extra days to do so.
Finally, the day arrived and it was time to leave. We drove over to pick up Ray who was already outside his senior building waiting for us to pick him up. I do wonder how long he’d been waiting out there. We got him settled into the front seat of the car, folded his walker, put it in the back and we were off to the airport.
This trip we would be flying out of Toronto Pearson Airport
which of course is huge for anyone let alone a 91yr old with a walker. But none of that ever stops Ray, he’s always ready to go and will take on all challenges with gusto. Of course, I had to reel in that gusto a bit and convinced him to take the wheelchair service offered at the airport. He wasn’t happy but he did it anyway.
Getting through security was a breeze and it was nice that we skipped the line because of the wheelchair assistance we had. Unfortunately, our plane was delayed a bit so we had to wait around a little longer than expected. The worst part of this, of course, is that we got to Halifax quite late in the night.
The plane was great quiet and not overly packed. We were able to sit comfortably with a seat in-between us. Not long after sitting down the engines started and I looked over at Ray to give a smile and say something like “and away we go” but he was already asleep. Happens every time we fly together, airplanes make him sleep like a baby. But, I didn’t want him not drinking anything for the entire flight, so I woke him only once to get him a drink of his choice. After I put on my headphones and listened to some quiet music for the remainder of our flight.
My friend was sure to ask Ray what he’d like to do while in Halifax he told her he wanted to see hear some live music, see the water and have fish and chips and that is exactly what we did. Four of the five nights we spent in Halifax were in local bars hearing local bands. We heard everything from Rock to Blues to Jazz and Ray loved it, he couldn’t get enough.
If you’ve ever been to Halifax you know its a hilly city. I was exhausted after a day of walking and I worried about how the walks were for Ray. He did them with no complaints, but I knew he was feeling each night at bedtime. But it didn’t stop him the next day he was ready to go again. He really is an inspiration.
One of his (and mine) favourite things to do in Halifax was to spend time on the boardwalk. Such a lively place full of people coming and going, kids laughing, people chatting and eating delicious food. I could have sat there for days and days by the ocean. Ray sat quietly taking it all in with a content smile on his face while my bestie went off to find us all some ice cream.
Another day we went to the Canadian Museum of Immigration. We did a bit of research and were able to find the ship Ray’s family came to Canada on in 1923. We learned a little bit more about their journey than he had known before and there is still more to learn apparently. This type of research is a fantastic free service offered at the museum they charge a minimal fee for printing documents if you want to take time home. If you aren’t in Halifax you can simply email them and they will email you back all sorts of information about your family immigration. It’s pretty cool.
Travelling with Ray this time was not without some concerns he tires more easily and needs more breaks than he did in our previous trips. He doesn’t eat much anymore so I made sure to buy some meal supplement shakes and jazzed them up with real berries each morning. It was a constant battle making sure he was drinking enough every day. We also made sure the restaurants we went to had soft food options like a soup that he could enjoy.
I enjoy my time with Ray I’m happy to help him get some time with his granddaughter and his great-granddaughter. I love seeing his smile and laughing with him is priceless. This trip is full of wonderful memories that we all will cherish.
During this trip, he often said: “Oh Kim, this will be my last trip I think…” but at the end of our Halifax adventure he said, “Let’s go to Chicago in the spring and see The Cubs play…”
I think we need to make this happen! Stay tuned for more adventures.
By: Kimberly Johnston
I thought I would include a few tips for travelling with seniors that I learned while on my adventures with Ray:
- Use the airport wheelchair service. It’s free. You skip some lines. Board the plane first and you don’t have those long walks. Just to be sure to indicate you require this service when you purchase your tickets this will save you some hassle when you get to the airport.
- Sometimes it’s tough to ensure the senior you’re travelling with is hydrated. Ray got mad at me many times for giving him water. Find out what they like to drink and ensure they have plenty of that. Ray likes tea so I made sure to buy him a lot of tea.
- Food can be a tough one too! Make sure you know the dietary restrictions of your elderly travel companion. Often appetites aren’t what they once were so having several smaller nibbles throughout the day is the best way to make sure they’re getting everything they need. Starting the day with a meal supplement drink like Ensure can help. We blended some fresh berries into the drink to jazz it up a bit and it was a big hit and it added a bit more nutrients.
- Double-check that your senior travel partner has all the medication they need before you leave home. Taking some extra meds is also a good idea - Just in case.
- Don't over plan activities for your trip and take lots of breaks. We found our senior travel companion was happiest when we were simply sitting by the water and letting the world go on around us. He enjoyed just being where the action was and just taking it slow. It made for a beautiful relaxing time and it was probably the highlight of our trip. We can learn from seniors take your time and just stop and enjoy.
- Don’t shy away from nightlife! Some people think that once you get older you no longer enjoy nightlife. Ray loves to go out to see live music so that’s exactly what we did 4 of the 5 nights we were away. We didn’t stay until closing but we did take in a set or two of each band we saw and he absolutely loved every second of it.