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Why Is Travel Healthy for Older People?

New experiences challenge our assumptions and make us feel young.

"We believe in SKI," an elderly English gentleman said, "that's Spend Kids Inheritance."

My husband and I never wanted to go on a cruise because we thought they were for old people, but then we realized that we are old people. Our first cruise was to Alaska and we loved it, so we tried another one in the Caribbean. It was on that cruise that we met the SKI couple—we have been on six cruises altogether and we are scheduled for another in the fall.

Roberta Satow
Source: Roberta Satow

After a lifetime of saving for the future, it took us a while to realize that the future is now, and we had to get the hang of living in the present. Of course, this is a problem that a lot of people would love to have. But for those of us who worked hard, paid for our children's education and were lucky with our investments, we can change gears and think about how we want to spend the years we have left with minimum guilt.

We have made travel a priority in our lives. Here are two reasons that it is healthy for us as well as fun:

Roberta Satow
Source: Roberta Satow

Travel is good for our brains. Each time we take a trip, there are mistakes and problems that come up. At home, we might just whine and complain, but when we are in a foreign country we experience the glitches as new challenges. We booked a car one day later than we needed it in Melbourne. What shall we do? There's a strike in Florence and the restaurants and hotels are closed. What shall we do? We have a reservation in a parador in Spain, but there's a medieval arts festival and we can't drive to the hotel. What shall we do? In some countries, my husband's brain was particularly challenged--he had to adjust to driving on the left side of the road, deal with confusing round-a-bouts and shift with his left hand.

Meeting new people. Wherever we go, we meet people we would never have met otherwise. On a Caribbean cruise we met a British couple who lived outside of London. We visited them in London and then a year later, traveled with them in Sicily. There was the Australian couple we met on a Caribbean cruise who said, "Come visit us if you ever come to Sydney." SO WE DID! We stayed at their house and climbed to the top of the Sydney bridge together. There was the guide in Hong Kong who said she wants to go to graduate school in the United States for Sociology. When I told her I was a retired Professor of Sociology, she told me she had written an article about sexual harassment in Hong Kong and asked if I would be willing to comment on it. "Of course," I told her. And now we have an email correspondence. We needed a SIM card in New Zealand and went into a store to get help. We got the SIM card, but only after we spent an hour talking to a salesman who was born in Zimbabwe and lived in Austin, Texas for 10 years before moving to New Zealand. And perhaps most important, on a trip to Mexico City in 2005, my husband and I visited the Frida Kahlo museum and learned about Leon Trotsky's assassination in Coyoacán. That became the basis for a novel that I published this year, Two Sisters of Coyoacán.

As you can see, travel is not only fun, it has greatly expanded our horizons. We have met physical and intellectual challenges together and felt a sense of wonderment that we used to think was only for the young. But now we know better! (For more of my thoughts on travel CLICK HERE.)

"I want to sit in my shades sipping my latte
Beneath the awning of a famous café
Jet-lagged and with our luggage gone astray
I wish I could go travelling again."

—Breakfast on the Morning Tram, Stacey Kent

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