Opening the door to leisure travel for people living with dementia

22 October 2021

A group of multidisciplinary dementia care and tourism researchers from CQUniversity Australia' University of Sydney and the University of Sunshine Coast are investigating how leisure travel experiences can be developed and improved for people living with dementia and their carers.

As travellers across Australia prepare for state and international borders to re-open' lead researcher and dementia expert' Dr Maria O'Reilly from CQUniversity' explained that the project aims to better understand the challenges and obstacles that limit the ability of people with dementia to enjoy travel experiences.

"Research tells us that maintaining an active lifestyle is not only good for our bodies' but also good for our minds and has the potential to slow the progression of dementia.

"This project will look at one part of living an active lifestyle which is the ability to travel and enjoy new experiences.

"Travelling for leisure is an important source of enjoyment and an activity that everyone should be able to enjoy regardless of age and ability.

"However' to date' little attention has been paid to this activity for people living with dementia; and how travel experiences can be made more inclusive and accessible to those living with the effects of dementia at all stages'" said Dr O'Reilly.

"To address this gap' our research aims to identify ways tourism operators can facilitate the development of dementia friendly holiday experiences' and recommendations to travellers to ensure they get the most from their holidays.

"Our research will be undertaken by surveying and interviewing people living with dementia and/or their travel companions about a recent holiday' as well as their experiences of travel generally.

"We will also survey and interview tourism operators to understand the realities (especially as they deal with the impacts of COVID) and their potential for designing and providing dementia-inclusive holiday options.

"We are also working with an advisory panel including consumer advocates and tourism industry representatives' to ensure the needs of people living with dementia are appropriately met."

Tourism researcher Dr Anja Pabel from CQUniversity added that it was important for the tourism industry to adapt to changing traveller needs as the population ages.

"As of this year there are an estimated 472 000 Australians living with dementia and without medical breakthroughs' the number of people with dementia is expected to increase to almost 1.1 million by 2058*' so it is absolutely necessary for all industries' especially the tourism industry' to understand and implement inclusion strategies to accommodate those dealing with dementia'" said Dr Pabel.

"As the industry plans to open up following COVID closures and restrictions' operators who provide inclusive experiences for everyone could improve their competitive advantage."

Anyone who has dementia and/or their carers are invited to complete the survey here.

Tourism operators can also complete the industry survey here.

The research project is being funded by a Dementia Australia Research Foundation/Dementia Centre for Research Collaboration Pilot Grant.

Findings of this research will be available in 2022 with the researchers planning to use the results to help inform planning and for tourism industry.