VOYAGES OF VITALITY | Senior Citizens’ Path to Wellness Through Travel

Travelling is a delightful experience that can be enjoyed by people of all ages, including senior citizens
Representational Image
Representational ImagePixabay [Creative Commons]

Age becomes irrelevant on the road” is the most suitable saying in the case of all those senior citizens who have found a passion for travelling and reap the health benefits from their trips.

A brief survey was conducted by the authors of this article regarding travelling by senior citizens in their post retirement life. After interacting with many senior citizens they do not like to move out of the four walls of their houses. Due to living a sedentary lifestyle they have added weight and developed multiple ailments.

The sad part of the story is that their children also do not encourage them to move out from their golden cages. Due to ageist stereotypes children often rebuke their seniors if they show any interest in outdoor activities. We have to act before it is too late. One of the adult child had promised his father that he will take him Pugga Valley in Ladakh as his father was posted there decades ago.

His father had a keen desire to visit there. Every year the son made the promise but due to his job and other domestic compulsions could not fulfil his promise. When he decided to move, the father had developed joint problems and doctors had advised him to avoid long tours. Travelling is a delightful experience that can be enjoyed by people of all ages, including senior citizens.

In fact, there are multiple benefits to travelling for senior citizens, from improving their cognitive health to providing opportunities for socialising and learning new things. Senior citizens perceive travel as a time to rediscover themselves. Travelling is not limited to merely discovering new and amazing destinations; it also has the potential to broaden one’s outlook.

Travelling can be considered a form of therapy, as it helps senior citizens build self-assurance by challenging and overcoming their fears, thus stepping outside their comfort zones. This experience has been shown to have significant healing advantages.

Travel is good for mental health

Loneliness and stress are common challenges that many senior citizens face. After years of toiling and dedicating themselves to their families, they may feel drained and disconnected from the world around them. However, travel can be a powerful antidote for these issues, as it has been shown to reduce stress, counter depression, and even lower the risk of dementia.

Senior Citizens who travel often find a renewed sense of purpose, which can improve both their physical and mental health, making them less susceptible to cognitive degeneration, heart attacks, and strokes. By breaking away from their daily routines and exploring new places, they can also boost their mental alertness and increase their brain’s neuroplasticity by learning about new cultures and languages.

Moreover, travelling can also help senior citizens develop more emotional stability and social skills by connecting with people from varied backgrounds. Women who take vacations at least twice a year are particularly likely to benefit, as they may experience lower levels of stress and depression. Even a brief three-day vacation can significantly lower stress levels, making travel a powerful tool for promoting wellness and healthy ageing.

Sightseeing by senior citizens provides them an opportunity to get the brain working by stimulating thinking, concentration and memory — especially when interacting with caregivers or other tourists.

Physical Health Benefits of Travelling

Travel can have multiple physical benefits for senior citizens, providing many opportunities to stay active and move, which may not be possible while staying at home.

Tours and visits to water destinations can keep seniors active through activities like swimming, walking, and sightseeing. Recent research has demonstrated that 60% of senior citizens who travel report getting more exercise while on vacation than at home.

This increased physical activity can reduce the risk of chronic diseases such as hypertension, type-2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, stroke, and cancer. Senior citizens who regularly go on vacation tend to be more health conscious.

Reinforces Relations

Amidst our hectic lives, vacations offer a much-needed respite and the opportunity to slow down and relish quality time with our senior citizens. While transient visits and mobile conversations are meaningful throughout the year, nothing quite compares to the bonding and connection that occur during an extended family vacation.

Away from the distractions of daily life, families can engage in deeper conversations, share stories, and embrace each other’s unique culture. These precious moments can create some of the most valued and unforgettable memories that will be cherished for a lifetime.

Research Based Benefits of Travelling for Senior Citizens

A Japanese study found a positive relationship between travel and subjective well-being in senior citizens. People who travelled five or more times a year reported higher well-being than those who travelled twice a year. Travel helps reduce stress and anxiety.

When on vacation, there’s no pressure to get things done or worry about what’s going on at work or home. The focus is on oneself and enjoying time off without any distractions.

Provides Space for Learning new things

Engrossing oneself in new environments during vacation can offer senior citizens an enriching learning experience. From historical sites to museums there is always something to learn and discover.

These fresh experiences can reignite a lost passion for reading, encouraging senior citizens to delve into books and expand their knowledge long after back home from travel . Learning not only helps senior citizens maintain their mental keenness, but it also fosters better memory retention, keeping their minds sharp and active for years to come.

Changes Outlook

It is truly amazing how a change of scenery can boost our diminished spirits, expand our perception, and foster creativity. While the comfort of our homes and daily routines can be soothing, sometimes we need to step outside of our familiar environment to gain fresh insights.

Exploring a new location allows us to see the world from a different perspective and discover ideas that can enrich our daily lives. Returning home after a vacation, senior citizens often have a renewed appreciation for their surroundings while also feeling rejuvenated with new ideas for design, exercise routines, cooking styles, or socialising

Group Travelling by Senior Citizens

One of the most significant advantages of group travel is cost savings. By travelling in a group, senior citizens can take advantage of group discounts on everything from flights to hotels, meals, and tours.

This can add up to significant savings that can be used for other expenses or saved for future travel. Travelling in a group offers an added layer of safety and security for senior citizens. Group travel offers senior citizens an excellent opportunity to socialise and meet new people.

This can be especially important for those who live alone or have limited social opportunities. Group travel provides an opportunity for senior citizens to experience different cultures and traditions.

Travel Tips for Senior Citizens
Consult with your travel agent for suggestions. For example, many tour operators specialise in accommodating the needs of travelling seniors.

Consult with your doctor for a complete medical check-up. This is especially important if you have coronary heart disease, hypertension or any other chronic condition, or if you have recently undergone surgery or experienced a heart attack.

Discuss any particular health concerns you may have, such as dietary changes and the possible impact of different eating habits on your specific condition.

People with diabetes will need medical advice on how to safely stagger their medications to fit a different time zone.

Consider having your flu and pneumonia vaccinations before you go on your trip.

If you intend travelling to areas where infectious diseases are present, make sure you are fully vaccinated.

Visit your dentist for a check-up.

Dr Zubair Saleem is a Senior Geriatric Consultant and Gerontologist and Dr Showkat Rashid Wani is a Senior Coordinator, Directorate of Distance Education, University of Kashmir

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