Travel as therapy for dementia? Here's what science has to say

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  • Going on holiday can benefit people with dementia.
  • Travelling for pleasure can be a non-pharmaceutical treatment for dementia.
  • Travelling can also boost serotonin levels and help with depression.

Taking a road trip or flight to a holiday destination is known to help people feel refreshed and relaxed. Now, a new study has found that leisure travelling can be a non-pharmacological intervention to improve well-being in patients with dementia.

The study published in Tourism Management assessed how leisure travelling could help improve dementia outcomes.

Positive impact of travelling

The researchers found that going on holiday could have a positive impact on people with mental health conditions.

They say that non-pharmacological dementia treatments such as music therapy, exercise, cognitive stimulation, reminiscence therapy, sensory stimulation and changes to a patient's mealtimes and environment have a positive impact on outcomes. These changes often occur when on holiday.

Incorporating holidays in dementia treatment

The study authors say that being in new environments and having new experiences could provide cognitive and sensory stimulation for dementia patients.

"Exercise has been linked to mental well-being, and travelling often involves enhanced physical activity, such as more walking. Mealtimes are often different on holiday: they're usually more social affairs with multiple people, and family-style meals have been found to positively influence dementia patients' eating behaviour," said Lead researcher Dr Jun Wen in a press statement.

The researchers also add that holidays provide other health benefits such as fresh air and sunshine, which increase 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. So, tourism is not just about travelling and having fun; we need to rethink the role tourism plays in modern society," Wen said. 

READ | Your walking speed could predict future dementia

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