‘Travel is good medicine,’ study finds – so start saving up

By Bob Schulman

Fireworks light up a half-mile-high building in Dubai, UAE. Photo courtesy of Dubai Department of Tourism & Commerce MarketingAfter you retire do you hope to zip off on trips to exciting places? Do you dream of seeing the Egyptian pyramids? How about those gorgeous, half-mile-high volcanic peaks soaring over St. Lucia? Or closer to home, Mother Nature's wonderland at Yellowstone National Park?

If you dream of traveling, you're not alone. A recent study shows nearly 60 percent of Americans have travel “bucket lists” for their golden years, when they've got the time to actually pack up and go. The problem is, according to the study, they may not be able to foot the bills for those trips.

Two groups – the Global Coalition on Aging (GCOA) and the Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies (TCRS) – got together to survey 1,500 adults representing a cross-sample of the U.S. population. Their research shows that while 44 percent of the respondents thought about a travel savings plan for their later years, only a mere 18 percent actually put travel bucks into their financial strategy for retirement.

Well, maybe you'll get rich on the green felts in Vegas. Or win a lottery. Or hit oil in your back yard. But don't bet on it.

Besides missing out on fabulous trips, non-travelers flirt with health issues, too. Complementing the survey, GCOA also released a white paper titled “Destination Healthy Aging: The Physical Cognitive and Social Benefits of Travel.”  (www.globalcoalitiononaging.com/index.php?id=travel-and-healthy-aging-the-journey-and-the-destination)

Cathedral in Mazatlan, Mexico. Photo by Gina Hansen.The paper is said to be the first of its kind linking travel and its associated activities “with positive health outcomes, including decreased risk of heart attack and depression and even the promotion of brain health.”

“Travel is good medicine,” explained Dr. Paul Nussbaum, Ph.D., ABPP, president and founder of the Brain Health Center, Inc. and a clinical neuropsychologist and Adjunct Professor of Neurological Surgery at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. “Because it challenges the brain with new and different experiences and environments, it is an important behavior that promotes brain health and builds brain resilience across the lifespan.”

“The phenomenon of longer lives applies to millennials as much as it does to baby boomers, and it requires us to think, plan and act differently,” said Michael W. Hodin, Ph.D., executive director of GCOA. “We are beginning to see this powerful relationship between travel and healthy aging, which should motivate us all to begin saving for it now.”

The GCOA/TCRS study, called Journey to Healthy Aging: Planning for Travel in Retirement (www.transamericacenter.org/retirement-research/travel-survey),

and the GCOA white paper were commissioned by the U.S. Travel Association.

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