Tues Travel Tip: Old Age is Hard Enough – How to Prepare for Embarrassing Pat Downs?

Warning: Don’t visualize the following details.

The latest story from JFK airport is that two women in their 80s going through security were required to pull down their pants to show a back brace and colostomy bag. We’ve heard similar stories – another senior was forced to remove her wet diaper because the body scanner showed a spot on it.

At what point can we preserve an elderly person’s dignity and yet still practice tough national security? In 2009, a Nigerian man tried to blow up a flight to Detroit on Christmas Day with explosives in his underpants. So the very personal hiding spots are not without precedent.

The TSA has adjusted screening procedures for certain people – Just a couple months ago it modified pat downs of kids under 12 – But I wonder if announcing that is a smart thing to do since a would-be sick-minded terrorist could then hide something on a child.

The problem of screening seniors is only going to grow with the aging boomer population and a whole sea of medical devices requiring special screening: Catheters, prosthetics, pacemakers, and artificial hips….

According to reports, prosthetic devices can possibly set off metal detectors, and catheters and bags are visible on body scanners, making those passengers candidates for more intimate inspections. Metal detectors and wands can disrupt some devices such as implanted defibrillators, so those passengers must ask for pat-downs instead.

Welcome to the post 9/11 world. How do we get around it? Would you want your grandmother to be asked to drop her drawers? A doctor’s note may not be enough. Sensitivity training is going on right now, according to TSA reports.

The best thing to do to avoid a pat down is to be extra careful about removing things from your pockets and your body that may trigger the metal detector or body scanner, and spawn a more intensive search.

If you are traveling with a senior, especially one with a medical condition, make sure to explain the whole security process – and what may happen in a pat down. At least preparing them will reduce some of the shock.

If you or a senior member of the family do need a pat down, ask to go to a private room – which means you REALLY need to get to the airport early.

Of course, there are those, like me, who choose the pat downs. I am a little OCD about radiation – I know I know, they say it is such small levels in the body scanners. I have joked with the women patting me down… changed the subject to ignore the embarrassing situation…and just deal with it. After all, I chose to have one.

But for seniors, we have to practice a little more sensitivity. Any ideas?

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