Travel Therapy

Tourism may soon be recognised as a dementia intervention by providing an experience which resembles current cognitive stimulation therapies, reveals a study.

Asian Scientist Magazine (Jul. 6, 2022) — People often associate travelling with a sense of rejuvenation and renewal– a much needed getaway from the stresses of daily life. The unique exhilarating experiences that travel can offer is undeniable: In 2018, the World Tourism Organisation (UNTWO) saw a record 1.4 billion international tourist arrivals. More than that, there is increasing attention on how travel can boost mental health and act as a form of therapy.

The multifaceted nature of travelling (think sightseeing, social activities and increased mobility) makes travelling a stimulating experience. Cognitive stimulation has been proven to activate the brain and prevent cognitive decline, making travel an attractive candidate for dementia intervention. This finding from a multidisciplinary team in Edith Cowan University in Australia was published in Tourism Management.

Dementia affects more than 55 million people worldwide. Despite being the seventh leading cause of death, treating dementia has been particularly challenging. Drug development is hindered severely by the blood-brain barrier (effectively preventing most drugs from targeting the brain) and limited understanding of the disease progression.

Currently, there are gaps in understanding the relationship between tourism and medical treatment of dementia. This study aims to bridge the gaps and explore travel as a prospective treatment for dementia, outside of the typical pharmacological treatments that focuses mainly on drug administration.

Lead researcher, Dr Jun Wen, from the School of Business and Law in Edith Cowan University worked with a diverse team of experts spanning the tourism and medical fields to dig deeper into how tourism could offer potential health benefits for those with dementia.

The study revealed that travel intervention offers various stimulating experiences ranging from emotive, cognitive to sensory. Coupled with a typical drug regime, travelling could help to enhance the quality of dementia intervention provided today.

The team observed that travelling offers a holistic experience reminiscent of the typical treatment regimes recommended by medical experts. This includes ‘exercise, cognitive stimulation…and adaptations to a patient’s mealtimes and environment’, said Dr Wen.

The team is confident that with Covid-19 and its impact, the perspective of tourism and its value has far extended beyond the superficial label as a getaway. Dr Wen hopes that with this study, ‘something new [can be done to] bridge tourism and health science’.

More in-depth research and data will have to be collected to evaluate the true potential tourism offers as an alternative medical intervention for mental conditions like dementia and depression.

Source: Edith Cowan University; Photo: Shutterstock

This article can be found at Tourism as a dementia treatment based on positive psychology 

Asian Scientist Magazine is an award-winning science and technology magazine that highlights R&D news stories from Asia to a global audience. The magazine is published by Singapore-headquartered Wildtype Media Group.

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