‘Silver surfers’, ‘third or fourth age’, or ‘older people’ – however you roll, you should feel supported when you travel


Travel insurance is an important part of any overseas trip, and possibly even more so for older travellers. Why? Because there’s just no denying that as you get a little more ‘worn around the edges’, accidents and sudden illness tend to happen more frequently.

Jo McCauley, CEO for Southern Cross Travel Insurance, says the insurer aims to support any New Zealander while they travel and insures travellers up to 118 years of age, which more than takes into account the extraordinary age of some New Zealanders up until now.


“Older customers are often grateful to have cover available for their age group. It’s so important to us to support every age of New Zealander to travel the world. It’s a wonderful way to enrich your life, but it can also come with risks or challenges that you need to be prepared for.

“Some of the more challenging cases we’ve had recently relate to assisting older travellers who have taken off on a long-awaited holiday, just like the tide of younger people heading off overseas after the pandemic. Sadly, a number have been struck down with fall-related injuries or strokes, which are just as likely to occur here at home in New Zealand, let alone on a cobbled path in Greece or poolside in the Pacific.”


McCauley says one of the most common reasons for taking out travel insurance is to help cover medical costs where strokes, broken hips, or falling ill with a bad flu or Covid can be enormously draining.


“Situations like these can be especially stressful when you’re on a fixed income, often the case for older New Zealanders. Comprehensive travel insurance offers a great deal of security.


“For example, in cases like those outlined below concerning travellers in their 70s and 80s, our Emergency Assistance team has swung into action to cover medical help, arrange for family members to support the traveller or even medevac them home to Aotearoa either on a commercial airline or in purpose-built aircraft with doctors or nurses on hand.”


  • A person breaking their hip in a fall while travelling through Greece. A $50,500 claim was paid to cover their travel home to have surgery.
  • A broken arm in Bali with a $230,000 claim.
  • A traveller requiring medical evacuation from a cruise in French Polynesia following a stroke. After having surgery locally, they also needed repatriation with medical support. Their insurance claim eventually came to $151,500.
  • A person who needed treatment in intensive care after a fall in the US. That, plus their repatriation to New Zealand, led to a total cost of $1.3 million.

McCauley said pre-existing medical conditions are often a concern for older travellers, but Southern Cross believes a medical history shouldn’t stop people travelling overseas.


“Southern Cross does offer cover for pre-existing medical conditions,” she said. “We ask customers to complete a medical assessment when they buy their policy, either online or over the phone. Cover is available dependent upon the customer’s individual circumstances, but we are confident in our ability to offer support in most cases, no matter what your age.


“In those instances where we are unable to cover a high-risk pre-existing medical condition, we can still offer a travel insurance policy to cover other needs.”


Buying travel insurance


Customers can declare pre-existing conditions when buying a policy online. Southern Cross’ underwriting tool can then determine if the condition can be covered and any additional premium that might need to be paid.


Customers can also choose to call the Southern Cross contact centre on 0800 800 571 and go through this medical assessment process over the phone. Customers can choose not to declare pre-existing conditions, however, if there is a claim that relates to that pre-existing condition, there will be no cover under the policy.

McCauley also has a cautionary tale to offer.


“With an increased focus on the cost of living, many travellers are thinking that by having paid with a credit card, they are automatically insured and covered for every eventuality.


“We do understand that travellers will be looking to save, but there can be downsides to taking this approach, particularly for older travellers – who may not be covered by credit card insurance. It’s best to check the cover offered against the benefits offered by a specialist travel insurance provider like us.”


McCauley points out there are a few watchouts for credit card travel insurance. “For example, you will only be covered if you pay for your holiday using your credit card and you might also be charged an annual fee. It’s important to note that sometimes the policy offered will only apply to the cardholder and not family members.


“Credit card travel insurance cover may only cover you for short periods and some activities such as extreme sports or using a moped may not be covered by a credit card policy but can be covered with optional add-ons from insurers

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