The TSA Tries to Become More Senior-Friendly


This week, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) will begin implementing new screening guidelines for the elderly.

Starting March 19, air travelers who are at least 75 years old won't have to take off their shoes or light jackets as they go through security in certain airports. Additionally, seniors who set off a scanner will be allowed to go through again with the hopes of preventing an unnecessary pat-down.

The TSA states that they feel this initiative is a more risk-based approach to screening (seniors are not considered to be likely threats to national security) and will enable security lines to go faster and more smoothly not only for seniors, but for everyone.

Not all airports will be adopting these new procedures right away, but elderly passengers traveling in and out of Chicago O'Hare, Orlando, Denver, or Portland, may be able to take advantage of the new screening guidelines. If the regulations work well for the elderly in security lines at these four airports, the TSA plans to expand the program.

Flying with an elderly loved one is never easy—particularly when they have medical equipment that is not exactly security scanner-friendly.

Just last year, on two separate occasions, women in their eighties were allegedly asked to remove their medical devices, a back brace and a colostomy bag respectively, so they could be properly screened. TSA officials refute parts of these claims, but do admit that the employees involved in the incidences did not follow the proper protocol for screening medical equipment.

Under the new rules, people in wheelchairs or with medical devices will be allowed the re-scan, but traditional procedures for examining medical equipment will remain in place.

The TSA also cautions that seniors may still be required to take off their shoes, or submit to a pat-down if the scanners detect a problem. TSA guidelines require that, "All alarms must be resolved."

Caregivers traveling with a senior over 75 will have to kick off their shoes and go through the normal security screening process.

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It has been very difficult for my MIL to travel and TSA pat downs just make it more difficult. She has knee replacements and usually ends up spending 15 minutes or more being patted down. She cannot take off or put on her shoes alone. It is also difficult for her to hear instructions - all of which make her very nervous. To me, having the cards that explain 'what device' was implanted in her knees should be sufficient. They go over her with a 'fine tooth comb' - patting and feeling around and under her breasts, between and under her legs, etc. She cannot stand alone and must remain in the wheelchair - which doesn't make it any easier. I just think that they should be able to make a record of certain individuals (like my MIL) if given permission so that they do not have to go through this humiliation over and over. Sadly, she isn't able to travel as often - but it wouldn't hurt for TSA to try to accommodate the elderly a bit more.
Every person, elderly or not has a right to their body. Just because someone is elderly does not give anyone the right to feel around their breasts. I know, I have to fly my 85 year old dementia- ridden Mom sometimes too. I was very humiliated this last time through security. They felt her up between her legs, and she wears a depend undergarment, which seemed to make the screening take even longer. This was after using the wand and having no beeps. Because she was being patted down at the airport, I was not allowed to stand near. Since she has dementia, this was a difficult moment for her.... and me.