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TSA eases airport screening for elderly travelers

A pilot airport screening program designed to make the security line easier for elderly fliers is going national.

Since March, TSA workers at airports in Chicago, Denver, Orlando and Portland, Ore., have been testing modified screening practices for passengers 75 and over. Elderly travelers at select checkpoints were allowed to keep shoes and light outerwear on during screening and could take a second pass through full-body scanners to clear anomalies. The measures mirror those instituted nationwide last summer for children 12 and under.

TSA on Friday announced an end to the pilot program and said it will roll out the rules at all U.S. airports throughout the summer. A specific implementation timetable was not released.

The changes will reduce, but not eliminate, enhanced pat-downs for the elderly, TSA said in a statement. Travelers will be asked to remove shoes and undergo a pat-down “if anomalies are detected during security screening that cannot be resolved through other means.”

In December, TSA was under fire after security incidents involving elderly passengers.

In one, 85-year-old Lenore Zimmerman said she was injured and humiliated during a strip search at JFK Airport. Days later, 88-year-old Ruth Sherman said she was forced to pull down her pants and show her colostomy bag during a search.

TSA later apologized for the way the searches were handled.

In the past year, TSA has implemented and enhanced other initiatives designed to ease screening requirements and concerns, including PreCheck, an expedited screening program it continues to roll out at dozens of airports, and TSA Cares, a helpline for travelers with disabilities and medical conditions.

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