Travel therapy: Research reveals why vacations are good for dementia


couple on holiday
Home may be where the heart is but it seems travel can (literally) broaden the mind. 

Move over art therapy, get in line music therapy, there’s a new therapy in town and it’s encouraging you to go exploring. A new cross-disciplinary paper from West Australia’s Edith Cowan University proposes that travel therapy can provide real health benefits for those with mental health issues or conditions, including dementia.

Lead researcher Dr Jun Wen said: “Medical experts can recommend dementia treatments such as music therapy, exercise, cognitive stimulation, reminiscence therapy, sensory stimulation and adaptations to a patient’s mealtimes and environment. These are all also often found when on holidays. This research is among the first to conceptually discuss how these tourism experiences could potentially work as dementia-interventions.”

Dr Wen said the varied nature of tourism meant there were many opportunities to incorporate treatments for conditions such as dementia. For example, being in new environments and having new experiences could provide cognitive and sensory stimulation.

“Exercise has been linked to mental wellbeing and travelling often involves enhanced physical activity, such as more walking,” said Dr Wen.“Meal times on holiday are usually more social affairs with multiple people, and family-style meals have been found to positively influence dementia patients’ eating behaviour. And then there’s the basics like fresh air and sunshine increasing Vitamin D and serotonin levels.

Everything that comes together to represent a holistic tourism experience, makes it easy to see how patients with dementia may benefit from tourism as an intervention.”

Dr Wen said COVID-19’s impact on travel in recent years had raised questions about tourism’s value beyond lifestyle and economic factors. “Tourism has been found to boost physical and psychological wellbeing,” he said.

“So, after COVID, it’s a good time to identify tourism’s place in public health … and not just for healthy tourists, but vulnerable groups. There will have to be more empirical research and evidence to see if tourism can become one of the medical interventions for different diseases like dementia or depression. So, tourism is not just about travelling and having fun; we need to rethink the role tourism plays in modern society,” added Dr Wen.

READ MORE: 5 ways to maintain good brain health and reduce the risk of dementia



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