Seniors at Walt Disney World: Senior Slow-down

by Ruth Morehart
AllEars® Guest Columnist

Feature Article

This article appeared in the March 21, 2017 Issue #913 of ALL EARS® (ISSN: 1533-0753)

Editor's Note: This story/information was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all current rates, information and other details before planning your trip.

Ruth and Roger MorehartAs I have said before, I'm not a professional writer. I started writing these articles for AllEars® because I couldn't find much information on "Seniors at Walt Disney World," and I knew there were a lot of us out there. I've touched on a lot of areas for seniors, but thought talking about the natural slowing down many of us experience would be of interest. There are many seniors who run marathons and climb mountains, and that's great, but… there are those of who don't. Don't worry. This is not meant to be a downer type of article. Instead, I hope my thoughts and ideas will help someone enjoy Walt Disney World even more!

I have a love for Walt Disney World that started late in life. When I was a young child, we couldn't afford a trip to Disneyland in California (the only Disney theme park at that time). I remember putting on my mouse ears every Saturday morning while watching the Mickey Mouse Club, dreaming of one day going to Disneyland.

Our first opportunity to get to a Disney park came when my own children were 5 and 7 years old, in the early 1980s. We had one more trip when they were 7 and 9 years old.

Then life got in the way, with jobs, school, and sporting events. We did not get back to WDW until we had grandkids — in fact, six of them. We took a family trip, 11 of us in all, in 2010. It was great. We took another one in 2013. Then something unexpected happened on that trip with the kids and grandkids. My husband and I decided to stay a few days longer after they'd all gone back home, something we had never done before.

That was the start of our trips with just the two of us. We found out, much to our surprise, that we loved going to WDW alone. We could go at our own pace, go where and when we wanted, eat where and when we wanted, and we LOVED it. We had a great time with the family, but it is definitely a different trip when you are not running after grandkids from ride to ride. Since then we have gone to WDW yearly, just the two of us.

So, in our 60s, we found a love of Disney that has not abated over the years. What has changed, however, is that we have naturally slowed down. We found that we need to adjust our trip agendas a little. I mention our health issues only so that you can see that our story is affected by this somewhat, just as yours might be. My husband had back surgery last year with some nerve damage so he walks with a limp and has a weaker leg. I have fibromyalgia, arthritis, and plantar fasciitis.

However, I feel that these things don't affect our slowing down any more than the natural aging process. So, enough about that! Instead I wanted to talk about the little changes that we've made to accommodate our change of pace.

1) Pre-trip: The first thing I do is make lists, even though I have done these things each year in preparation. I feel I need more time to get organized now, and I don't want to forget anything, so about one month out I start the list of what needs to be done: packing and gathering supplies. I lay everything out on the spare bed and then sort through the clothes that I really want to bring, usually cutting it down by half. About one week out, I make another list of things to do that week: call credit card companies, get cash, hold mail, etc. The day before we leave I really pack and edit the clothes I bring. (As much as I try, always way overpack clothes!) And since we don't have a smart phone, I pack a clock/radio.

2) Resort reservations: We always use a certified Disney travel agent, and we have worked with our particular agent for years. The certified Disney TA's know so much more about what is happening now and are helpful in so many ways. I usually start calling my TA three months after our last trip because I get so excited for the next one! Our TA always requests a room on the ground floor and close to the main buildings and bus stops. Always follow up on these requests before you depart. Our TA sends a fax to our resort, but individuals can call or fax, too. For seniors, room location can make a real difference in your stay.

3) To ECV or not to ECV? That was our question this year. After much negotiation, my husband decided he would use an ECV (electric scooter) while in the parks only. He couldn't be swayed to rent one for use all the time. The ECV made life so much easier for him… and for me. He wasn't tired or sore after the parks and could enjoy the evenings wherever we decided to go. It's difficult to decide to use a cart, but now that he has, he is very happy he did it. He also used a cane for balance, one that folds up so he could easily carry it on rides. That helped a lot. Don't be afraid to use a cane, wheelchair, or ECV if one is needed. It really makes life easier for everyone. Walking up to 10 miles each day in WDW parks is a lot for anyone, so I feel we need to adjust so we can enjoy Disney even more.

4) Rise and shine: We are early birds, and always get up early each morning. We hit the parks at "rope drop" each day. We use our FastPasses after riding the attractions we want with standby. It's easy to get a lot of rides in this way. Then at noon, we eat our main meal, and then go back to our resort to rest. We have no plans set for the evening. We might go to Disney Springs or another park for the evening. We also find just relaxing and enjoying our resort is really nice, too. We don't feel it is necessary to keep in motion the whole time. We use a lot of rest periods and just walking slowly and taking it all in. We have been too many times to feel the need to go at high speed anymore.

5) Good shoes are very important. We always bring two pairs each. (I've actually been known to bring four or five pairs, but Roger doesn't know that!) Since I have plantar fasciitis I wear my favorite tennis shoes most of the time. Whatever is most comfortable will save you a lot of problems.

6) At the parks: We just go slower, due to the cane and our ages. We tend to stay to the side of the paths and try to keep out of the way of people in a hurry. In attraction lines, we ask the ones behind us if they want to pass, but most people don't. I'm always surprised at that.

7) Limit what you carry: We haven't used a bag for years. I used to use a neck purse for glasses and pills, but since Roger wears only cargo pants now, he packs his pockets with these items. Love, love those cargo pants! We can even get our camera in them. We have a small container for our pills, and a fold-up pair of reader glasses that fit easily into a pocket. I couldn't go back to using any bag at this point. We just don't need much with us at all.

Since we don't have a smart phone, and don't even bring our old flip phone with us, we just print out our FP times, dining reservations and shows on paper and take that with us — in yet another cargo pocket.

8) Make use of Magical Express: We put our luggage on the plane at our city and don't have to bother with it until it gets delivered to our room. We love that! No struggling with luggage, and no driving in lots of traffic.

9) Consider taking advantage of the resort restaurants, whether the leisurely table service or quick service, which also offer a wonderful variety. They are so convenient, and when you are tired you don't have to leave your resort to get there. I check out restaurants in each park before our trip, and I'm always glad when we get there that I did. We don't waste time wondering which restaurant has food that we like because we know in advance what's on offer. We aren't foodies, but know that Walt Disney World is also a "food theme park", so we're pretty happy with the variety available to us. We don't use the Disney Dining Plans, but have paid out-of-pocket for the past two years and wouldn't change that. (I have written previously on OOP vs. dining plan.)

10) We all get tired with sore feet and legs and feel some sensory overload after a day in the parks. Stopping and resting frequently works for us. I get to have my favorite treat, too — ice cream! It's fun to just people-watch for a while. With a little research, you can find out-of-the-way places to rest in each park. One of our favorites is behind the UK pavilion in Epcot. Another spot we found recently is on the path beside Cinderella Castle. There are little niches with benches overlooking the moat with a castle view.

11) I'm not a super planner, but I find that a little planning helps a lot. We have a half-day plan of where to go and our FastPasses, and then we just wing it in the afternoon. With a little planning you can avoid standing around asking, "Where do we go next?"

We have always stayed at a Disney resort hotel and as you can tell, we love it. However, as we get older, we are considering a condo close to the parks. We would like to come back to a comfortable couch or chair after being at the parks. The resort rooms are great, but there is only a bed or desk chair to sit on. We want to explore some more of Florida, too. We have always loved SeaWorld, and I want to see Kennedy Space Center, the Keys… so many places. But we would always want to stay inside Walt Disney World, too. Perhaps a week there and then another offsite?

Each year, as seniors, we find our trips evolving to meet our changing needs. But one thing will not change — that is our love for Walt Disney World and our annual trips to our special place.

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Ruth has written from a senior's perspective in several features for AllEars®:

Seniors at WDW: What Walt Disney World Means to Us

Seniors at WDW: Special Non-Ride Moments

Seniors at WDW: A Trip with Minimal Planning

Seniors at WDW: Thrills Not Just for Kids

Seniors at WDW: Who's Afraid of Technology?

WDW from a Senior's Viewpoint

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Ruth Morehart is a retired RN who has been visiting Walt Disney World since her son and daughter (who are now in their 40s with children of their own) were young. She resides in Minnesota with her husband Roger. Despite her fibromyalgia, Ruth enjoys quilting and creates quilts for the Quilts of Valor program for wounded soldiers.


Editor's Note: This story/information was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all current rates, information and other details before planning your trip.