How Travel Keeps Seniors Mentally and Physically Healthy

by Fit After Fifty
Person holding a small globe in their hand on top of a mountain

For many retired seniors, travel is a way of using their newfound free time to to enjoy themselves and see all of the places on their bucket list. However, fun is only one of the benefits that travelling provides: Whether you are just crossing state lines or are hopping continents, travel has been shown to provide a number of mental and health benefits to seniors.

Mental Benefits

Traveling requires a lot of thinking, and that strengthens seniors’ minds. According to a publication by the Global Coalition on Aging called Destination Healthy Aging: The Physical, Cognitive and Social Benefits of Travel, activities such as talking to new people, trying out new languages, seeing new sites, visiting museums, reading maps, and exploring new cities keep seniors’ minds alert. This cognitive stimulation in turn builds brain resilience at the cellular level and boosts brain health, which may lower seniors’ risk of developing a degenerative disease.

A 2013 study also found that travel can improve mood and general outlook on life, something that may be significant in reducing post-retirement depression.

Physical Benefits

Whether you’re exploring museums, climbing stairs or hills to appreciate magnificent views, or just aimlessly wandering, travel involves a lot of movement. This physical activity helps seniors stay fit and reduces their likelihood of developing heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, stroke, and cancer. The break from everyday stress that travelling provides may be another reason behind its link to improved heart health. Even if they are no longer working, retirees still have to manage household chores, bills, events, and relationships, and temporarily getting away from these responsibilities provides an opportunity to relax that benefits their physical health.

Safety Tips

Seniors will only reap the health benefits of travel if they take care of themselves leading up to, during, and after returning from their trips. The following tips will help keep trips both safe and enjoyable:

  • Consult your doctor first. Letting your doctor know where you’re going and what you’ll be doing never hurts, especially if you’re concerned about the physical exertion. If your plans include visiting a foreign country, you’ll want to ask if any immunizations are required.
  • Prepare your prescriptions. Make sure you get your prescriptions filled ahead of time and have enough medication to last your entire trip. Accidents happen, so have a backup plan for obtaining more in your destination city just in case.
  • Notify your friends and family. They should know where you’ll be and what you’ll be doing, and have contact information for all the hotels you’ll be staying at in case of an emergency.
  • Purchase travel insurance. You may not end up needing it, but if something happens abroad — or even somewhere in the U.S. where your insurance doesn’t work — you’ll be glad you have it.

Take it easy. Travelling can be a workout, but don’t overdo it. When you feel like you’ve reached your limit, head back to the hotel and relax. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and you don’t need to see it in a day, either!

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