African family with luggage walking by window at airport terminal and watching airplanes through glass window. Family walking through airport passageway.Travel can mean a lot of things to a person – adventure, rest, relaxation, exploration, and inspiration – but a new study suggest it may offer even more.

A future study to be published in Tourism Management suggests that travel could offer unique benefits for people with dementia, particularly in the areas of mental health and well-being.

The authors suggest that the potential benefits of tourism, sometimes referred to as “travel therapy” may help with dementia treatment. One of the ways they defined tourism was “visiting places outside of one’s everyday environment for no longer than a full year.”

They also suggested that four main components make up the experience of tourism:

  • How it impacts feelings, emotion, and mood (affective experience)
  • How it affects thoughts and memories (cognitive experience)
  • How it impacts behavior (conative experience)
  • How it impacts the senses (sensorial experience)

Researchers decided that tourism has the potential to potentially offer positive impacts on well-being and quality of life through a variety of components. However, there is currently very little existing and available literature to support the theories.

Based on what does exist, however, along with their professional opinions, they did propose how tourism may address parts of non-pharmacological treatments in people with dementia.

They include:

  • Cognitive and sensory stimulation: Travel can stimulate thoughts and knowledge, which may have benefits for dementia. Experiencing sensations may also promote behavior and feelings of mental well-being.
  • Environment: Travel puts people into a new environment that can boost social interaction, which may stimulate brain function for people with dementia.
  • Exercise: By its nature, travel often involves increased movement and activity.
  • Reminiscence: Talking about and remembering past experiences has been shown to be helpful for people with dementia. Tourism may help stimulate memories or experiences for people to remember and later discuss.

This is a new area of study, and plenty of further research is required to assess the links between tourism and dementia treatment.


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