According to the Global Coalition on Aging, travel can improve your aging process, physically, cognitively, and socially. Between 1950 and 2050, life expectancy will increase by 30 years. What we do throughout our lives will help determine the quality of those extra years.
The studies find that people who do not take breaks from everyday stressors have elevated amounts of the stress hormone ‘cortisol’ in their bodies. This hormone actually speeds up the aging process. We may not consciously feel like we are stressed, but the repetitiveness of our daily routines causes a drag on our psyche. It has been shown that people who take vacations less than every six years have a higher risk of heart disease and are more likely to suffer from depression. For men there is a higher risk than for women. Even when accounting for pre-existing conditions, men who did not take annual vacations had a higher risk of heart disease and death.
While we associate outdoor, active vacations with improving our health and fitness, studies indicate that the fact that we are experiencing new things is more important. When we are visiting new places our brains are challenged. New experiences and environments promote brain health and build brain resilience across the lifespan. These exercises help to lower the risk of dementia. Something as simple as navigating an unfamiliar city or town can challenge a brain, as can reading a map or determining which bus, plane, or train to take.
The social aspect of travel has also been shown to improve our overall health, not just because you might meet new and interesting people, but also from your traveling companions. Seniors have reported that multigenerational travel helps them feel and stay more youthful. It’s fun to watch the grandkids experience new things.
We generally have positive feelings and better perceptions of ourselves when we are traveling, especially traveling for fun, but studies indicate that the benefits of that travel may be lasting and consequential to our senior years.
The Global Coalition on Aging report concluded by saying, “Ponce de Leon visited Florida 500 years ago in search of the mythical Fountain of Youth. Though he did not find it, by traveling, he was on the right track.”