/ Money, Travel & Leisure

Will you still cover me – when I’m 64?

Pensioners on holiday

Our research shows the travel insurance industry’s letting older people down, with low age limits, high premiums and unfair treatment. Have you felt discriminated against when trying to buy travel insurance?

My grandma is 94 – excluding her sporadically malfunctioning left leg, she is completely fit and healthy.

Granted, she’s not going to be competing against Usain Bolt at London 2012, nor is she going to be doing any wing-walking daredevil stunts anytime soon (although that doesn’t stop many of her nonagenarian compatriots). But at 94 she – and maybe millions like her – would have to search high and low to find an insurer that’s willing to provide her with cover for going abroad.

When we researched travel insurance, 95% of annual policies we surveyed excluded customers above a certain age. And it’s not just the elderly who get left out – nearly a quarter of the policies considered sprightly adventurers in their sixties too old to insure.

Risky business

So what’s the big deal about providing people over sixty with travel insurance? Surely that’s the time retirees should be hanging up their work clothes, and kicking back on the Riviera with a pina colada and parasol?

Insurers argue that insuring older people carries greater risk – and many of them choose not to cover people above certain age thresholds. Others can provide premiums so high that it puts older customers off altogether – we found one company that more than trebled its premiums over night once customers passed 65.

Comedy of errors

Whether insurers should have to provide cover to older people is a matter of debate – but we think the way some companies treat older people on their websites is shameful. When we entered an age over the maximum limit on their website, Lloyds TSB told us to ‘enter the correct information in the fields where there has been an error.’

And Lloyds TSB aren’t alone – plenty of other insurers hit older customers with rude and unnecessary error messages.

We think that some travel insurers need to take a long hard look in the mirror when it comes to the way they treat older people. After all, where else would an elderly person try to buy something, only to be declined and commiserated with a whopping great ‘ERROR’ sign?


I’m sorry this is a non story. Insurance companies are there to make money – they are not charities. If they decide that people older than 65 are too high a risk – they are too high a risk – and the company is free to either refuse to cover or increase the premium. This is true for all sorts of insurance when considering cover. Why should the company put profits at risk?

The error messages are simply sloppy programming and the limits of cover should be made clear at the beginning of the application.

I am 80 so not really biased – just realistic.

Bob says:
23 May 2011

I hear what Richard says – still not very nice of the companies – a lot of us older travellers have paid them an awful lot of money in premiums over the decades….they could at least have the decency to be polite when they indicate they think we are now fit for the the scarp heap!

I’ll check on my Bank’s policy – I don’t need much encouragement to shift my account elsewhere!

Bob – I completely agree it is not nice to be treated in such a cavalier fashion – but the reason is bad programming – the programming is usually done by the young – not noted for their overall treatment of – or their politeness to – the old.

Since insurance companies charge older people going abroad higher premiums thus reducing the uptake, and since many older people are disinclined to make such journeys anyway or abstain from the more risky activities compared with younger holidaymakers, I am wondering how the insurers can have enough representative data to make the correct actuarial judgments on the degrees of risk. I tend to go abroad during the school term times when the majority of travellers are over sixty-five and in their prime – I don’t think many are succumbing to higher-than-usual sickness rates or dropping dead on the cruise; indeed I would say that many of them put the younger generations to shame with their healthy eating [and drinking], sensible exercise and fitness activity, and early nights. Admittedly there is always a handful of ageing reprobates who should be penalised because they eat and drink too much, not because they are over sixty-five!

I can only say I know personally of four people over 65 who have died on holiday and several more who have become seriously ill – They have all been friends. Many pensioners I know use their savings to go on long expensive holidays to avoid paying death duties or using their savings to pay for future long term care. It is not higher-than-usual sickness rates – but higher sickness rates in the elderly. There are millions of pensioners so there is enough representative data to access risk.

Are we really ‘going abroad’ John, when we travel within the European Community. I thought we were ‘Common’ now and all as one, with freedom of travel !
Perhaps we need a change of mindset in this particular area and the insurance companies made to ‘toe the line’.

I always thought the idea of insurance was about the ‘spread’ of risk ! The trend in the insurance market in all fields appears to be the ‘isolation’ of risk. A fair flat rate premium for all is the ideal…..but not in our selfish, scramble for profit, ‘hide’ the policy exclusions, economy …. I doubt !

I disagree – It has always been “Pay for risk” The higher the risk perceived the more you pay. It’s been that way for at least 65 years to my knowledge. My home insurance is high though I’ve never had a burglary or house disaster in 50 years – Why? because I live in an area (London) where the risk of burglary is very high,

Why should someone living in an area where burglary risk is non existent pay more to cover my high risk? I would certainly object if I lived in such an low risk area. The fairest method is to pay for the risk that statistics indicate.

Insurance companies – ever since Insurance was invented in the Coffee Shops of London – have existed to make profit – not to be charitable enterprises.

I can understand why insurers don’t want to take on huge and unnecessary risk, but what really surprises me is how low the age limit is – 65? I wonder how long this rule has been around, and what has to change to make them reconsider their age limit.

People are living much longer these days, and it’s so common for people aged over 65 to be keen travellers that most people wouldn’t even think twice about whether the journey would be difficult or risky.

There’s nothing wrong with insurance companies being cautious, but I think by setting the limit at 65 they are being cautious almost to the point of discrimination – how many 65 year olds do you know who are physically incapable of going on holiday, or for whom a holiday would be a health risk? Not many, I expect.

In my opinion the criteria of yesteryear is no reason for it to apply today.
Great strides have been taken to eliminate discrimination in all its forms in many areas.
For example, our own Government in relation to pensions and retirement.
The European Union in relation to car insurance.
In a democratic society with freedom of travel, personally, I feel health and age should not be a bar, or financially punitive. Certainly within the European Union – it would be a start.
I refer purely to health and age and not other add-ons such as loss of baggage, cancelled flights etc.

pickle says:
27 May 2011

Being 85 I find health insurance is difficult to get. It seems to me that with the advance in medicine and the fact that people are living longer it is unreasonable to assume that people beyond 65 are that inclined to fall sick more often. Is there proof?
Admittedly older people are more likely to fall sick on holiday, but the insurance firms seem to be profiting from the old ‘uns to an excessive extent.

nonamama says:
24 April 2013

Like you, we are “older” and are having no luck finding an annual insurance policy that will cover us for worldwide trips of over 30 days. Have you had any luck? And would you kindly tell me where? Many thanks.

Wendy Martensson

Noting Richard’s point that some older people are going to die on holiday [just a some will die on the golf course] I still tend to agree with other correspondents that the insurance industry is milking the senile generation [me included] and hoping it will passively accept their unreasonable and disproportionate demands. Our esteemed CE of Which? made the points most cogently in the June magazine [which are herein reinforced by Nikki Whiteman]. And, in my admittedly unrepresentative observations, it is the juvenile generation that is being scraped off the pavements of Lanzarotte and Budapest and delivered home in an ambulance after costly treatment. Half the elderly cruisers do not even get off the ships at the ports of call and nobody on a good cruise ship would dream of eating locally. All-inclusive hotel holidays and escorted tours also cut the risks of mishaps considerably [and consequently the cost of claims] in my opinion. It is not necessarily age that determines risk but behaviour.

I’m sorry – But I think you’ll find that if – repeat if – the numbers of the beer swilling oiks being air ambulanced home – were in fact a highly significant number – the insurance for such people would have risen – and as far as I know it hasn’t – But people going on skying holidays do pay a higher premium because of the higher risk of such an activity.

Trombone says:
31 May 2011

It’s not just the increasing cost of insurance, but the dreaded interrogation that follows an applica tion if you have pre-existing conditions and are told to apply by phone. Some companies handle this sensitively and sensibly, sometimes employing medically qualified staff. Many don’t. We have been asked to recite all operations since birth, giving dates, and there is a definite feeling of a box-ticking process going on: three ticks and you’re out!
Many of us would benefit from some regulated standards in this area, or can anyone suggest anything better?.

David says:
23 June 2012

My 81 year old mother-in-law has just been refused travel insurance by SAGA. She has been insured by them for years, only every travels with us and has never made a claim.

Obviously as people get older they get additional health problems, although she is still very active and independent. However, SAGA have totted up her ‘risk factors’ and have now refused to insure at all.

I am absolutely disgusted. With the population growing in age and travel becoming more of an option for people, it is disappointing that the insurance industry is behind the times and failing to offer any service at all.

Airwitch says:
1 March 2013

I am a repatriation nurse. I don’t often bring drunken oiks home after balconing or being stabbed
because a) they don’t even HAVE travel insurance and b) if they are off their heads with drink their
insurance will be null and void. Many people I repatriate have just sustained fractures through just
stepping off the pavement……in other words, just a simple ACCIDENT, they can be any age,

nonamama says:
24 April 2013

We are an “older” couple…nearing 70 and cannot find a multi-trip annual policy that will cover us for long trips worldwide…..We try to spend alot of time out and about. Can anyone offer suggestions?
Would be much appreciated.

Wendy Martensson

Hi Wendy,

LV=, BIBA and Golfguard all cover travellers up to 75 at least, with extended trips of 90, 45 and 60 days respectively on their annual policies.



I have just turned 86. Never had any medication until a minor heart arrhythmia 18 months ago; BMI good; no problems since. 2 sisters, 100 and 102, the “younger” JUST gone into care. Now very expensive to travel, but have family in S-E Asia and Australia, so much teeth gritting (my own) going on. My older, Australian, sister simply travelled without through her 90s! I wish there was a simple, basic, get you (or your body) home if the worst happens – I wouldn’t want £millions spent now, but am NOT ready to vegetate at, or in, a home! (PS, stopped skiing and riding my beloved ZZR600 Kawasaki at 80 – so not silly…)