Ask An Expert: Smart Travelling

A reader wants to know: I love to travel and understand that it is good for the brain. Do you have tips on how to travel safely as I age?

And here is a response from Baycrest’s Dr. Michael Gorden: It is true that travelling can be very enriching and stimulating. As we age it is an excellent way to keep our brains in top form. As long as you are physically and financially able, I highly encourage travelling.

The reality is that some older adults begin to lose confidence in their ability to navigate in unfamiliar places. Walking long distances may become difficult. Long flights can be tiring and carrying luggage can become burdensome. But if you plan your vacation around your abilities, it can be a boost for the brain and the mood.


– Seeing new places, learning history and admiring art stimulate parts of the brain which you may not use regularly.

– Travelling with a group or to a family reunion means you will be socially active, which is important for the brain as you age.

– If you are going to a foreign country, learning even a few words in a new language can foster new connections within the brain.

– Travelling usually involves some physical activity, which is also very important for brain health.

Tips for ensuring a safe trip:

– Confirm all hotels and modes of travel a couple of days before you leave.

– Consider going on an organized bus trip or cruise so that you won’t need to worry about transportation, meals and hotels.

– If you can, travel with a companion to help you deal with special challenges.

– Ensure that all your medications and personal care items are easily accessible.

– Research the medical services available at your destination so you know what to do in an emergency situation.

– Read the fine print in your travel insurance policy. Some companies will not cover you if there have been recent changes to your medications or medical conditions.

– If frequent visits to the restroom are required, travelling by airplane may not be the best choice.

– If you require frequent medical monitoring or have not been stable in a while, it might not be a good idea to travel at this time.

Travelling may not be as easy for you as it once was, but if it results in improved well-being, it will be well worth it.

If long distance trips become too complicated, try day trips closer to home. These can be just as stimulating.

Photo © Junghee Choi

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