Travelling as a Senior
Updated: Jun 28
Close your eyes, and imagine yourself somewhere else in the world. Whether you’re lounging on a sunny beach, taking a hike through nature’s beauty, or exploring a history-filled city, travelling is an exciting adventure that offers many benefits. Although travelling as a senior may not be the same as travelling as a younger adult, it does not have to be any less enjoyable or beneficial! Travelling provides seniors with tangible health benefits, social engagement, and a sense of adventure. With the right preparation, travel can be made safe and worry-free.
Physical and Mental Health Benefits
It is well-established that travelling can greatly improve one’s physical and mental health. A study by Gump et al. found that men who take annual vacations are 30% less likely to die from heart disease. A study by Eaker et al. followed female adults for 20 years, finding that those who took the least amount of vacation time were 2.5 times more likely to have a heart attack than those who vacation every year. Women who vacation more often are found to be less tense, depressed, and tired, and even more satisfied with their marriage.
Travelling also improves your day-to-day health by giving you a break from stressors in your daily life. A study by Blank et al. finds that a short vacation decreases stress during and after the vacation, which is detectable for up to 45 days. You’re also likely to be physically active as you travel, whether you’re walking on a beach, exploring a new city, or embracing an adventurous activity.
Overall, travelling is an extremely cognitively-stimulating activity. Picking up new words in a foreign language, tasting local cuisines, navigating a new city, admiring breathtaking views, participating in physical activity, and adapting to new situations all involve different key areas in the brain.
Social Engagement and Connection
In our day-to-day lives, our multitude of responsibilities can cause us to put our relationships with friends and family in the backseat. A vacation can provide an opportunity for friends and families to spend quality time together in a relaxed environment where connections can be strengthened. Whether you have deeper conversations, create shared stories, or immerse yourself in familiar cultures, travelling is the perfect excuse to put social connections first.
For seniors who wish to meet new people when they travel, there are also many senior travel companion groups! Meeting new people can be a great way to forge new relationships and build exciting memories. Engaging in social activities with others is known to improve mood, cognition, memory recall, and other healthy behaviors.
Travelling often involves finding yourself in a new, unfamiliar environment. While this may be daunting for some, with the right planning, it can be an excellent source of cognitive stimulation! Experiencing other cultures, even within your own country, can boost your creativity for up to two weeks after a vacation. Furthermore, the people you meet can allow you to see the world from a new perspective long after your travels are over.
Visiting new destinations can also involve a variety of sites of learning, including national monuments, museums, and historic sites. Not only does this stimulate the brain, but it can also allow seniors to be curious and read more about what they have seen or heard.
Practical Considerations and Tips
As a senior, it is important to be aware of any health or accessibility issues that may pose risks abroad. According to the government of Canada, you should visit a healthcare provider to discuss your plans at least six weeks before you travel. It is important to consider if accessibility accommodations will be available, whether you have received all recommended vaccines, if you’ll have access to important medication, and if there are any health hazards in your intended destination to be aware of. For more information, see Receiving medical care outside Canada and Well on Your Way - A Canadian’s Guide to Healthy Travel Abroad.
There are also many things you can do before you travel to make the process easier and less stressful.
Make special requests by phone: speaking with a representative can give you peace of mind, especially if you have concerns related to your health or safety
Choose travel times and routes carefully: select modes of transportation that match your physical abilities and be considerate of the times of departure. Furthermore, off-peak seasons can help you save money and avoid crowds.
Pack appropriately: invest in high-quality suitcases and bags and try to pack lightly. Remember to keep important documents on your person or in your hand luggage.
Consider organized tours: an organized tour will relieve much of the stress and pressure that comes with arranging your own travel
Get travel insurance: getting a travel insurance policy may assist you in many circumstances, from inclement weather to unexpected illness
Plan for rest: rest is important, especially for seniors. Budget extra time into your day so you aren’t rushed from attraction to attraction.
Think about security: consider leaving valuables at home or carrying them on your person for peace of mind.
Blank, Cornelia, et al. “Short Vacation Improves Stress-Level and Well-Being in German-Speaking Middle-Managers—A Randomized Controlled Trial.” International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, vol. 15, no. 1, Jan. 2018, p. 130. MDPI, https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph15010130.
Boyers, Lindsay. “Are There Benefits of Traveling?” GoodRx, 12 May 2022, https://www.goodrx.com/health-topic/mental-health/benefits-of-travel-vacation-good-health.
Cemental, Ruby. “Why Seniors Need a Vacation Too.” Caring Senior Service, https://www.caringseniorservice.com/blog/why-seniors-need-vacation. Accessed 31 May 2023.
Chikani, Vatsal, et al. “Vacations Improve Mental Health among Rural Women: The Wisconsin Rural Women’s Health Study.” WMJ: Official Publication of the State Medical Society of Wisconsin, vol. 104, no. 6, Aug. 2005, pp. 20–23. ResearchGate, https://www.researchgate.net/publication/7548396_Vacations_improve_mental_health_among_rural_women_the_Wisconsin_Rural_Women%27s_Health_Study.
Eaker, Elaine D., et al. “Myocardial Infarction and Coronary Death among Women: Psychosocial Predictors from a 20-Year Follow-up of Women in the Framingham Study.” American Journal of Epidemiology, vol. 135, no. 8, Apr. 1992, pp. 854–64. Oxford University Press, https://doi.org/10.1093/oxfordjournals.aje.a116381.
Gump, Brooks B., and Karen A. Matthews. “Are Vacations Good for Your Health? The 9-Year Mortality Experience after the Multiple Risk Factor Intervention Trial.” Psychosomatic Medicine, vol. 62, no. 5, Oct. 2000, pp. 608–12. Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, https://doi.org/10.1097/00006842-200009000-00003.
Living, Great Senior. “Senior Travel Tips: How to Have Great Adventures as an Older Adult.” GreatSeniorLiving.Com, 22 Apr. 2022, https://www.greatseniorliving.com/articles/senior-travel.
“Older Travellers.” Travel.Gc.Ca, Government of Canada, 4 Apr. 2023, https://travel.gc.ca/travelling/health-safety/older-travellers.
“Receiving Medical Care Outside Canada.” Travel.Gc.Ca, Government of Canada, 5 Aug. 2022, https://travel.gc.ca/travelling/health-safety/medical-care-outside-canada.
“The Mental Health Benefits of Socializing for Seniors.” Senior Lifestyle, https://www.seniorlifestyle.com/resources/blog/the-mental-health-benefits-of-socializing-for-seniors/. Accessed 31 May 2023.
Varniene, Milda. “How Traveling Changes Your Brain?” Adventures.Com, 17 July 2019, https://adventures.com/blog/brain-magic-with-travel/.
Well on Your Way - A Canadian’s Guide to Healthy Travel Abroad. 2014. Public Health Agency of Canada and Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada, 2023, https://travel.gc.ca/docs/publications/bon_depart-on_your_way-eng.pdf.