Travels for older adults

Canadians swap “fly and fry” holidays for healthier pursuits

Many Canadians in their teens and 20s travel as a rite of passage between finishing school and getting serious about career, family or both. Later in life, the motivation changes. Having been there and done that, mature globetrotters are moved to explore by a bigger purpose, whether it’s to learn, to volunteer or to pursue newfound passions.

For Anita Draycott, 67, from Stouffville, ON, travel means hitting the links: “I took up golf late in life and have been addicted to the game now for about 25 years.” She’s turned her passion into a pursuit and is now a professional golf writer who has played more than 500 courses on six continents.

Because the season is short in Canada, she and her husband, William, bought a timeshare in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, 12 years ago. “Our one week in the sun has morphed into three months every year,” says Draycott.

She still travels internationally to feed her wanderlust. “I love to experience new places, customs, cuisine, etc.,” she says. “You could say I am addicted to travel and get itchy feet if I don’t have an upcoming trip in my calendar. I really believe that one learns a great deal by travelling – about other people, places and yourself.”

The travel boom

Draycott is part of a demographic now dominating travel. According to data from the Canadian Tourism Research Institute, travellers aged 55 and older are filling planes and hotels more than any other age group. They take an estimated 2.3 million trips within a five-year period and spend more than $35 billion annually.

And to boot, travel is good for you. According to a joint study from the Global Commission on Aging and Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies, in partnership with the U.S. Travel Association, travelling keeps you healthier. Women who vacation at least twice a year have a significantly lower risk of coronary disease and heart attack compared to those who take a vacation only once every six years or more. Men who skip an annual holiday have a 20 percent higher risk of death and 30 percent more heart disease.

Heading to a new destination also lessens stress, increases creativity, lowers the risk of depression, and boosts happiness and life satisfaction, according to recent research.  The Global Coalition on Aging also did a deep dive on the subject in a white paper meta-analysis titled Destination Healthy Aging: The Physical, Cognitive and Social Benefits of Travel. It found that travel is closely tied to successful aging. Its benefits are linked to being physically active, reducing stress, meeting new people and engaging in meaningful social interactions.

As Dr. Paul Nussbaum, president and founder of the Brain Health Center, Inc. in Pittsburgh, PA, notes: “Because it challenges the brain with new and different experiences and environments, travel is an important behaviour that promotes brain health and builds brain resilience across the lifespan.”

That’s true for Paris, ON resident Jennifer Budd, who retired in 2016 after 35 years working in healthcare. For the 57-year-old, being able to travel more is all about nurturing her creativity. The long-time artist and painter shifted gears in 2008 to make colourful works of art using felt. Her passion for the technique opened the door to unique opportunities when she started selling her work through her company, Woolscapes.

Recently, she was invited to teach felting to women raising sheep in Fetlar, one of the Shetland Islands, off the coast of Scotland. “It was an incredible experience,” says Budd. “As an artist, it was inspiring to see landscapes just waiting to be created in felt.”

Now, Budd seeks out other felters wherever she goes. “It’s a wonderful starting point for meeting locals who share my interest in fabric art.” Next year, she plans to go to Australia and New Zealand, destinations well known for their wealth of sheep and wool.

Hand in hand, travel and creativity are the perfect combination, promoting wellness for the mind and body.


Route to Healthy Aging

Along with creating great memories, travel can do wonders for your overall well-being and quality of life.

  • The Framingham Study, which has continued to be updated since it began in 1948, showed that women who went on holiday every six years or less had significantly more risk of developing a heart attack or coronary death, compared to those that vacationed at least twice a year.
  • One study found that women who do not take vacations are twice as likely to develop depression as those who choose to pack their bags and head out of town.
  • The Mayo Clinic cited a reduction in stress as a good reason to travel since it helps reduce the chances of developing a wide range of maladies, from headaches to irritable bowel syndrome.
  • There’s no need to go on a long vacation. With breaks of just a day or two, 89 percent of respondents to one survey said they were able to leave stress behind.
  • Being more active while exploring is key to health. According to a 2012 study published by The Lancet, for people over 40, eliminating physical inactivity can result in an increase in life expectancy roughly equal to that achieved by eliminating obesity, nearly on par with the impact of eliminating smoking.
  • Neurogenesis – the creation of new neurons in the brain – is driven, in part, by new experiences, including travel.

Travel Tips

  1. Buy travel insurance if you are going anywhere outside of Canada. Keep in mind that one 24-hour stay in a US hospital costs $20,000 on average. Answer health questions honestly or risk invalidating your insurance.
  2. Be smart with meds. Keep them in the original prescription bottles, and have pharmacy receipts handy should you be questioned by customs agents.
  3. Consider compression wear: Long periods of sitting can cause blood to pool in the veins in the feet and lower legs, leading to localized swelling, tiredness and aches, or in a worst-case scenario, deep vein thrombosis (DVT), a clot that forms in the vein. Compression socks boost circulation, curb swelling and soothe weary limbs.

Originally published in Issue 01 of YouAreUNLTD Magazine.