The world is your oyster. You have the world at your feet. There’s a reason why so many of our metaphors for the good life invoke the image of travel. Travel adventures enrich our lives. They add zest to our daily routine. They provide invaluable opportunities to learn and grow. They broaden our circle of friends.
But as abundant as the benefits of travel are for children and adults of every age, the perks are particularly significant for seniors. After all, when you are older, you enjoy a unique capacity for appreciation. You have the wisdom and the experience to recognize and truly value what is precious, gifts that those who are younger and in the heedless tumult of youth often simply do not possess.
And, while seniors bring to their travel experience a depth of appreciation that less worldly-wise tourists may not, the travel experience itself can offer gifts that seniors, in particular, need. This includes opportunities for physical activity, cognitive stimulation, and social engagement, all of which are essential for aging gracefully, healthily, and well.
This article examines the many benefits of travel for seniors and provides tips and tricks for exploring the world well into your golden years.
Travel Supports Physical Health
To be sure, the last few years have made travel, especially international travel, feel like a risky prospect for many seniors. The advent of COVID-19 has for the better part of three years required those of a certain age to remain largely at home or, at the very least, to not venture very far from it.
Horror stories of coronavirus outbreaks on cruise ships and of mask-mandate violations on airplanes have contributed to an immense amount of travel-related health anxiety, especially among older and more vulnerable individuals.
The reality, though, is that, even in the aftermath of the pandemic, travel provides tremendous physical and mental health benefits for seniors. For example, when you travel, you’re almost certainly going to be far more physically active than you would be at home. Even the most sedate and leisurely of vacations will likely require a good deal of walking.
And then there is the abundance of other opportunities for moving your body, getting those heart and lungs pumping, and making those joints and muscles bend, flex, and keep strong. Most vacation sites offer opportunities to swim, hike, work out, golf, go horseback riding, and engage in any number of physical activities without ever having to leave the resort.
And then there are the many amenities that tourist towns and cities have to offer, from snorkeling to sailing to skiing, and from museum-hopping to mall shopping. In other words, unlike in the comfortable and familiar surroundings of home, when you’re abroad, the desire to get out and about is almost certainly going to outweigh the temptation to veg out on the couch in front of the television.
Best of all, you don’t have to battle the dread of the virus in order to reap the physical health benefits of travel. There are proactive measures you can take to help you travel safely in the aftermath of COVID, including ensuring you are up-to-date on your vaccines, that you’re traveling to a low disease activity area, and that you’re in generally good health overall before you venture out.
Travel Supports Mental Health
Travel doesn’t just support seniors’ physical health, however. Among its greatest attributes, perhaps, is the boost to mental well-being. Travel can help alleviate stress and reduce the risk of depression because it enables seniors to feel more engaged and connected with the world.
Travel can also greatly boost your self-esteem because it requires you to call on a host of skill sets you likely don’t need to exercise at home, skill sets you may not even know you possess. You have to learn to navigate in unfamiliar environments, for example, and to communicate and engage with strangers.
And when you find yourself rising to these challenges, solving problems, thinking on your feet, and making your own way outside of your particular comfort zone, that can be an immense shot of confidence. It can remind you that, no matter your age, you’ve still got it.
Travel Supports Cognitive Functioning
As might be surmised from the discussion above, travel can boost your sense of self-efficacy by placing you in challenging and unfamiliar situations in which you must use your social skills and problem-solving abilities.
What this means is that travel can be quite cognitively demanding, and that’s a great thing if you want to keep your mind and memory sharp for years and decades to come. Travel, especially to a locale you’ve never visited before, requires you to remember details, process information quickly, and formulate on-the-spot responses to novel situations, people, and environments.
And these aren’t the only cognitive challenges associated with travel. Travel can be a feast for the senses. Almost inevitably, you’re going to be surrounded by sights, sounds, smells, and sensations you’ve never or rarely experienced.
And that’s something a healthy, active, and agile brain craves. Nothing excites and awakens the brain like novelty, like the effort to figure out what these new sensory experiences are and how to understand and process them.
Travel Supports Social Well-being
One of the greatest challenges of getting older is social isolation. Seniors are at a higher risk for experiencing loneliness and social withdrawal than perhaps any other population. The loss of a spouse, retirement, and mobility challenges can leave seniors increasingly isolated in their homes, without strong connections and routine engagement with friends and family.
Travel is one of the best tools for preventing such social isolation. When you are out and about in the world, you’re going to expand both your range of experiences and your social sphere. You’ll meet people and engage with people from all walks of life and, with a bit of time and effort to cultivate the relationships you develop on your travels, you can build a robust, thriving, and expansive network of friends.
But travel doesn’t just help you connect with new friends as a senior. It also enables you to hone and refine your social skills, which you can then put to good use in your daily life at home. There are few occasions in life when great social skills are more important than when you’re traveling, and the aptitudes you develop while away from home are just as beneficial when you return.
We often think of youth as the time of life dedicated to great adventures and the freedom of indulging our most powerful wanderlust. But, in fact, it’s seniors who may benefit most of all from travel experiences. Travel offers a vast range of benefits for older populations. It supports health in body, mind, and spirit by keeping seniors physically active and mentally and emotionally engaged.
Travel helps seniors avoid loneliness and isolation, reducing their risk of anxiety and depression while boosting self-esteem and self-confidence. It also enhances cognitive functioning, calling upon the powers of memory, information processing, and problem-solving. Above all, travel helps seniors expand their social connections and cultivate strong, satisfying relationships both at home and abroad.
Guest Author Bio
Luke Smith is a writer and researcher turned blogger. He enjoys writing on a variety of topics but business, technology, and digital marketing topics are his favorite. When he isn’t writing you can find him traveling, hiking, or getting into the latest tech.