Ever-Tightening Security Creates Misery for Senior Fliers

At the height of the security crackdown on New Year's Eve, the Choi Stern family -- watching Air Canada officials frisk an 8-year-old -- turned their attention to an elderly man in wheelchair.

"We were joking that they were going to confiscate the IV drip because it was over 3 ounces," said Irena Choi Stern, assistant dean of alumni relations at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. The family of five had flown into Amsterdam on Christmas, the same day Detroit-bound Northwest Flight 253 averted a bomb attack, and were returning to New York.

"We had to check our luggage -- we never check our bags, they fit in the overhead -- because they were only allowing one small carry-on," she told ABCNews.com. "My son made the joke. Worse were people cutting in line."

Their observations weren't far off.

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Air travel has been bedlam since 9/11, and for senior citizens, enhanced security measures have made air travel increasingly daunting.

"I already sense that my older patients are traveling less," said Dr. Eric G. Tangalos, an internist and professor of geriatric medicine at Minnesota's Mayo Clinic.

"They have less capacity to handle the delays, less capacity to handle the change in flights, less willingness to handle the additional time through screening. And now, more time in their seats."

"New regulations are just one more reason for older passenger to consider that travel is no longer worth the effort or the risk," he told ABCNews.com.

From the "liquid bomber" to the "shoe bomber" to the "underwear bomber," each air terrorist attempt results in new security regulations.

Right after the arrest of Nigerian Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) quickly outlined new rules: Passengers must remain in their seats and access to carry-on luggage would be restricted one hour before arrival at a destination.

But the TSA guidelines were quickly ditched on domestic flights and left to the discretion of the airlines how strictly they would be followed. Still, those on inbound international flights will still face these restrictions.

Long waits standing in line at the airport, flight delays, poor air quality that dries the membranes, cramped seating that impedes sleep and jet lag are just some of the conditions that are especially challenging for seniors.

Long periods of immobility can also lead to blood clots.

"It puts the system through more stress," said Tangalos. "Instead of arriving at 10 at night, it's 2 in the morning. It's very tough on older people."

"When we are younger we can handle a multiplicity of intrusions and changes in our lives," he said. "We can go longer without food and water and without sleep. We can sit in a chair for a longer period of time. All that capacity starts to disappear. Fragility doesn't appear overnight."

"Travel may be the spice of life for 20- and 30-year-olds, but not for 60- and 70-year-olds," said Tangalos.

Air Travel Stresses Out the Elderly

Adding new hassles and indignities to travel, seniors say, "Gosh, it's not worth it anymore," according to Tangalos. "The travel industry should be paying more attention."

According to a U.S. Travel Association survey, 31.9 million "matures" -- those who are 65 and older -- traveled for leisure purposes in 2009, representing 19.5 percent of the 163 million total leisure travelers.

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