In my last post, I reported on the results of a study by the Global Coalition on Aging (GCOA) — a grouping of leading medical, financial and technology companies, among others, who hope to help shape public policy toward aging as 80 million baby boomers in America alone reach the ages of 50, 60 and up — that showed that travel can play a vital role in staying healthy as we grow older.
Now I’d like to expand a bit on the results of that study, which was done in conjunction with the nonprofit Transamerica Center for Retirement Research (TRCS) at the behest of the U.S. Travel Association. This is being billed as the first comprehensive look at the beneficial effects of traveling on health, with the caveat that much further research needs to be done on the topic.
The study’s findings paint a broad picture of the health benefits of travel: “Travelers,” it concludes, “are overall happier and healthier than non-travelers.” Yes, there is a possibility of confusing cause and effect here — for example, travelers may well be in better physical condition and be financially better off than non-travelers to begin with — but the assertion is still worth taking seriously.
The study summary continues: “Travelers report higher satisfaction with regard to their stress levels and their physical health and well being.” It cites travelers’ reports of beneficial effects on “mood and outlook” (86 percent); “stress level” (78 percent); “physical well-being” (77 percent); “mental stimulation” (75 percent); and “health” (70 percent).
Here are some specifics from surveys they conducted:
* Nearly six in 10 Americans “dream of traveling” during retirement; only “spending more time with friends and family” finished ahead of travel on their retirement wish list.
* Four out of five Americans surveyed believe that travel “improves their general mood and outlook toward life.”
* Three-quarters of them “love taking trips,” whether it’s a short distance down the road or much farther afield.
* 71 percent say travel “has helped them enjoy the current period in their life.”
* Nearly half say that travel “is so pleasurable and important to them that it is not a luxury but a necessity.”
* Nearly two-thirds of travelers say they walk more than at home and that “participating in physical activity is important on a leisure trip.”
* Among retirees who travel, more than four out of five are satisfied with their “ability to get things done,” compared to just 57 percent of retirees who don’t travel.
The study’s conclusions issue a couple of warnings, however: many Americans aren’t saving enough for travel during retirement; and just over a third of Americans cite travel as “very important” for long-term health.
The good news is that when presented with data indicating that travel can have long-term health benefits, the percentages of those motivated to travel — to help prevent degenerative brain diseases and promote heart health — rise to about half of those surveyed. (See my previous post for results of studies on these benefits.)
According to Time.com financial writer Dan Kadlec, it’s important to your long-term health to “consider the cost of travel as a fixed cost in your [retirement] planning.” And, he advises, “build in plans to travel with family and friends to satisfy most retirees’ top goal [spending more time with family and friends] at the same time you are seeing new places.”
If you’ve been making New Year’s resolutions, these seem like good ones to add — and keep.
Meanwhile, travel marketers, tour operators and other travel professionals can resolve to further emphasize physical activities in their offerings.
To those already specializing in active vacation opportunities — walking and biking tours, rafting trips, or anything that gets me and my fellow baby boomer travelers exercising on their journeys — I commend you and promise to keep promoting your companies in 2014.